Colorado fires fed by forests killed by spruce beetle

Credit: USDA
Credit: USDA

The spruce bark beetle has killed millions of trees in the American West. The dead trees lie on the ground and become almost perfect kindling, should a fire come through. That’s what’s happening in the Colorado fires, especially at West Fork.

Vast stands of spruce forests at the higher elevations of the San Juans were killed by insects recently, while warm temperatures and lack of precipitation led to tinder-dry fuels, from the forest floor up to the crowns of trees.

Nordic Science

Climate change may increase the risk of bark beetle outbreaks, particularly in old forests in northern Europe that so far has been spared from major outbreaks. Higher temperatures will favor the beetles and induce a transition from one to two generations per year at northern latitudes. Furthermore, simulations indicate that we may witness more frequent bark beetle outbreaks if extreme winds become more frequent.


  1. Climate change has increased bark beetle infestations in Utah, where warmer winters have allowed the beetle to acclimatize to survive winters that formerly would have killed it off. There are hundreds of square miles of dead Ponderosa Pine in our mountains. That’s a little frightening: there’s a reason we choose Ponderosa to fuel our boiler. It catches fire easily, without kindling, and it burns hot and long.

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