Climate change makes all of this trickier, however. In Australia, there's a good chance that an ongoing drought — which likely would've occurred naturally thanks to expected weather patterns — has been exacerbated by climate change, according to New Jersey State Climatologist David Robinson. The area where most of the Australian fires are burning is expected to become drier as the planet warms in the future, Robinson said.
New Jersey's fire risk is also affected by climate change, but in a different way. For the most part, Robinson said, the Garden State is expected to become increasingly wetter and hotter.
Robinson also said that precipitation in New Jersey is expected to take on a more feast-or-famine color; the state experienced a flash drought in September 2019, for example.
"Had we not had abundant rains return in October, we could've been faced with a fall fire season," Robinson said.
Those changes make it more likely for fires to burn in New Jersey throughout the year, Robinson said, rather than during the state's traditional fire season, which runs from mid-March through the end of May.
McLaughlin said he doesn't expect large fires like 2019's Spring Hill Fire to become more frequent in New Jersey. But he echoed Robinson in predicting that the Garden State's shifting weather patterns will make fires are more likely to occur at any time during the year rather than the traditional fire season.
McLaughlin said that climate change is reshaping the Pinelands in other ways as well. He noted the spread of new pests, like the Southern Pine Beetle, into New Jersey from the South as a threat, because the bugs kill trees. The dead trees then become prime fuel for a future fire.
This story originally appeared on NJ.com and is republished here as part of Covering Climate Now, a global journalism collaboration to strengthen coverage of the climate story.