Wildfires are burning across the globe, clogging the sky with smoke from Alaska to the Amazon, and scientists say it's no coincidence that July was the warmest-ever month recorded on Earth.

The fires have forced evacuations worldwide, most recently on Spain's Canary Islands, where more than 8,000 people have been forced to flee. Smoke from some of the fires is so bad satellites can see it from space, blanketing large portions of South America and the Arctic.

Climate scientists say the fires are partly the result of a world growing warmer, making it easier for flames to spread.

“In these conditions, it is easier for wildfires to grow and to be more long-lived,” said Mark Parrington, a senior scientist in the Copernicus Atmosphere Monitoring Service at the European Centre for Medium-Range Weather Forecasts.

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The average global temperature in July was above the 20th-century average of 15.7 degrees making it the hottest July in the 140-year record, according to scientists at NOAA’s National Centers for Environmental Information.

The previous hottest month on record was July 2016. Nine of the 10 hottest recorded Julys have occurred since 2005; the last five years have ranked as the five hottest. Last month was also the 43rd consecutive July and 415th consecutive month with above-average global temperatures.

Parrington said it's not possible to draw direct connections between hotter weather and more wildfires, citing human activity. For instance, although there are big fires currently burning in the Amazon, the past 20 years have generally seen a reduction in forest fires there, he said. But now the fires are the worst they've been since at least 2010, based on initial data, he said.

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Climate experts say there's always going to be regional variations – the U.S. has had a below-average wildfire year following 2018's deadly blazes across California – but the overall trend is toward more extreme weather fueled by a hotter climate.

The Arctic's boreal forests are particularly at risk, said Rick Thoman, a climate specialist with the Fairbanks-based Alaska Center for Climate Assessment and Policy. Like Parrington, he said it's not a simple connection between hotter weather and more fires, but said the conditions for fires are growing more frequent in the north.

"It's a reinforcing loop: The more fires you have, the more land you open up, so in future years you're going to warm that land more because the trees aren't there to shade it, which will in turn melt permafrost, which will then release carbon and methane, which are greenhouse gases, which contribute to warmer summers and more fires," Thoman said.

USA Today published this article on August 21st