Studies show that climate-related forest fires are on the rise – forestry research

Firefighters walk in the background with the forest and orange sky

Increasing forest fires in the West is the opposite of reducing the amount of fuel available for other fires. This could have serious consequences for Western fires in the next few decades, but climate change risk is not diminishing, says one study.

Unless significant changes are made to the way people interact with fire in the Western US, climate change is likely to increase as people become more and more vulnerable.

UC Mercedes professors John Abatoglo and Crystal Colden, in collaboration with the School of Engineering, University of Washington, UCLA and Carrie Institute, recently published their results in the journal Nature Communication Air and Environment.

  • Climate-related increases in forest fires in the western US may continue over the next few decades.
  • Variable reactions between fire and fuel supply can reduce increasing fire activity, but this is not thought to prevent climate change. And
  • Extreme Western-style fires similar to 2020 will be more common, but not less severe each year.

This study is the first to look at uncertainty in both climate directions and recent changes in forest fire risk areas in the western US. Many modeling efforts have ignored plant comments in planning a firefight, but the researchers in this study include a number of compelling firefighting feedback situations.

John Abatzoglou
Professor John Abatzoglou
Credit clear UC Marced

“We have looked at these forecasts with climate forecasts to ask if they are adequately capturing the growing wildfires in our forest,” Abatogolo said. “We show that compared to the last three decades – if you see a significant increase in burned areas – by 2021-2050 the average annual forest area could increase by 50 to 100 percent.

“We have to pack and prepare for the big fire season.”

Centennial firefighting efforts The forest floors are covered with fuel that can withstand high temperatures due to warming and drying conditions. Subsequent forest fires will eliminate fuel depletion, but this will not be enough to reverse the growing forest fires trend in the western US over the next decade.

Researchers say that climate change will increase year-on-year fluctuations in the burned area, leading to a significant increase in fires compared to the 2020 fire season.

“Our results show that fossil fuels have been drastically reduced over the next 30 years due to climate change,” said David Battisty, of Washington University of Atmospheric Sciences. New paper. “Perhaps the most worrying thing is that the area burned by the worst of the worst will increase dramatically. Over the next 30 years, about one-third of the total forest area in the US forests will be burned.

The findings are critical to identifying the latest trends in direct and indirect fire in the human environment and developing strategies for adaptation and mitigation, the researchers said.

One way to curb the increasing activity of forest fires is to invest heavily in strategies based on previously used suitable areas, such as mandated fires, deforestation and to allow fires to burn when they do not pose a threat to the home and infrastructure, Abatzoglou said. He said.

The Biden administration’s push for more climate change-based infrastructure makes this work even more important.

“Our data will help us to understand the escalating fires in the Western United States and other recent global fires,” the researchers said. “Considering the impact of wildfires on the community in recent and ongoing events, efforts to understand the impact of climate and climate change on the background of current climate conditions, such as land management, are urgent.”

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