Visualized: Charting 30 Years of Wildfires in America
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Chart: 30 Years of Wildfires in America

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Wildfires in America

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The Briefing

  • An average of 70,000 wildfires blaze through the U.S. each year
  • These fires destroy approximately 5.8 million acres of land on a yearly basis
  • Over 43,000 fires have started across the U.S., burning 5 million acres of land as of Sept 3, 2021

30 Years of Wildfires in America

This summer, record-breaking droughts and relentless heat waves have fueled disastrous wildfires across the United States. It’s gotten so bad, the state of California has decided to shut down all national forests for two weeks to stop the spread.

But how disastrous has this year been compared to previous years? This graphic gives a historical look at the number of wildfires in America that have occurred each year since 1990, and the acres of forest land scorched during that period.

Total Wildland Fires and Acres from 1990 to 2020

In the U.S., an average of 70,000 wildfires burn through 5.8 million acres of land each year. But some years have been worse than others.

Year# of Fires# of Acres Burned
199066,4814,621,621
199175,7542,953,578
199287,3942,069,929
199358,8101,797,574
199479,1074,073,579
199582,2341,840,546
199696,3636,065,998
199766,1962,856,959
199881,0431,329,704
199992,4875,626,093
200092,2507,393,493
200184,0793,570,911
200273,4577,184,712
200363,6293,960,842
200465,461*8,097,880
200566,7538,689,389
200696,3859,873,745
200785,7059,328,045
200878,9795,292,468
200978,7925,921,786
201071,9713,422,724
201174,1268,711,367
201267,7749,326,238
201347,5794,319,546
201463,3123,595,613
201568,15110,125,149
201667,7435,509,995
201771,49910,026,086
201858,0838,767,492
201950,4774,664,364
202058,95010,122,336
2021*43,2505,024,744

*note: 2021 figures as of September 3, 2021

One particularly bad year was 2006, which had over 96,000 fires and destroyed 9.9 million acres of land across the country. It was the year of the Esperanza Fire in California, which burned 40,000 acres and cost $9 million in damages.

2015 was also a devastating year, with over 10.1 million acres destroyed across the country–the worst year on record, in terms of acres burned.

Climate Change’s Role in Wildfires

Wildfires are only expected to worsen in the near future since warmer temperatures and drier climates allow the fires to grow quickly and intensely.

We’re already starting to see climate change impact the wildfire season. For instance, autumn is usually peak wildfire season for California, but this year, one of the largest fires on record started in mid-July, and is still burning as of the date of publication.

Editor’s note, September 20, 2021: In the post above, we said that California closed downed down all national parks for two weeks, starting August 31st. In fact, they closed down all national forests.

Where does this data come from?

Source: National Interagency Fire Center
Details: 2004 fires and acres do not include state lands for North Carolina.

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Charted: The Ukraine War Civilian Death Toll

Using data from the UN, this chart shows civilian death toll figures resulting from Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

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Ukraine war death toll

The Briefing

  • In total, since the war began in February there have been over 7,031 Ukrainian civilian deaths
  • Most of the civilian casualties recorded were caused by the use of explosive weapons, such as missiles and heavy artillery

Charted: The Ukraine War Civilian Death Toll

Russia’s war of aggression in Ukraine has wrought suffering and death on a mass scale, with many Russian attacks targeted at civilians.

We’ve created this visual using data from the UN Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) to better understand how many civilians have died in Ukraine as a result of the war, as well as how many were injured and how many were children.

The Numbers

As of early December, it is reported that 7,031 people in Ukraine have died because of the war — 433 of them children. Another 11,327 have been injured, 827 of which are children. In total, this is over 18,000 people killed or injured.

The figures are difficult to verify due to differing reports coming out of both Russia and Ukraine. The UN OHCHR anticipates that the numbers could be even higher.

The State of the Conflict

The war began on February 24th, 2022 and less than a year in, millions of people have been displaced by the conflict, and thousands of civilians have been injured or killed.

According to the UN, most of the civilian deaths have been caused by wide-ranging explosives such as heavy artillery shelling, missiles, and air strikes, and have been concentrated in Donetsk and Luhansk and in other territory still held by Ukraine.

Additionally, new estimates from Kyiv report approximately 13,000 Ukrainian military or soldier deaths, which has yet to be confirmed by the army.

Where does this data come from?

Source: The United Nations Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights monthly reports on civilian deaths in Ukraine.

Note: Data on deaths and injuries can vary wildly depending on the source.

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