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Climate change and wildfires

Informally Refereed
Authors: William J. De Groot, Michael D. Flannigan, Brian J. Stocks
Year: 2013
Type: General Technical Report (GTR)
Station: Pacific Southwest Research Station
Source: In: González-Cabán, Armando, tech. coord. Proceedings of the fourth international symposium on fire economics, planning, and policy: climate change and wildfires. Gen. Tech. Rep. PSW-GTR-245 (English). Albany, CA: U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service, Pacific Southwest Research Station: 1-10

Abstract

Wildland fire regimes are primarily driven by climate/weather, fuels and people. All of these factors are dynamic and their variable interactions create a mosaic of fire regimes around the world. Climate change will have a substantial impact on future fire regimes in many global regions. Current research suggests a general increase in area burned and fire occurrence but there is a lot of global variability. Recent studies of future global fire weather under different climate change scenarios using several General Circulation Models are reviewed. A widespread increase in future fire weather severity was found over almost all the earth with increasing fire season length occurring in many regions, particularly at northern latitudes. In the boreal forest region, which represents about one-third of global forest cover, increased area burned over the last four decades has been linked to higher temperatures as a result of human-induced climate change. This trend in the boreal region is projected to continue as fire weather severity and fire intensity will sharply rise by up to 4-5 times current peak values by the end of the century. Many national fire management organizations already operate at a very high level of efficiency, and there is a very narrow margin between suppression success and failure. Under a warmer and drier future climate, fire management agencies will be challenged by fire weather conditions that could push current suppression capacity beyond a tipping point, resulting in a substantial increase in large fires.

Parent Publication

Keywords

General Circulation Models, IPCC climate change scenarios, fire weather severity, fire intensity, fire management

Citation

De Groot, William J.; Flannigan, Michael D.; Stocks, Brian J. 2013. Climate change and wildfires. In: Gonz lez-Cab n, Armando, tech. coord. Proceedings of the fourth international symposium on fire economics, planning, and policy: climate change and wildfires. Gen. Tech. Rep. PSW-GTR-245 (English). Albany, CA: U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service, Pacific Southwest Research Station: 1-10.
https://www.fs.usda.gov/research/treesearch/44494