How Is Climate Change Making Wildfires Worse?

 

 

 

 

 

 

Wildfires such as those raging across Western America have become more common across the world in recent years. 
 
Many factors in combination with climate change have fueled an increase in the frequency and intensity of major fires, including human encroachment on wooded areas, and questionable forest management. 
 
"The patient was already sick, but climate change is the accelerant" said David Bowman, a professor of environmental change biology at the University of Tasmania. 
 
Climate change exacerbates fire due to rising temperatures, dry conditions and more extreme weather patterns, which makes fire more likely to occur and also be more intense. 
 
Hot, dry and windy - many of the regions devastated by a surge in forest fires are those predicted in climate models to see higher temperatures and more droughts. 
 
More fuel - Dry weather means more dead trees, shrubs and grass which is just more fuel for the fire. 
 
Thirsty plants - With less rain, water-stressed trees and shrubs send roots deeper into the soil, sucking up every drop of water they can to nourish leaves and needles. That means the moisture in the earth that might have helped to slow a fire sweeping through a forest or garrigue is no longer there. 
 
Beetle infestations - After months of drying in the longer periods of higher temperatures, stressed forests have become more susceptible to infestations by bark beetles and other insects that thrive in warmer temperatures. 
 
Over the next few decades, the wildfire forecast is grim. By mid-century, the annual area burnt in the Western U.S., for example, could increase two to six times what it is today, according to the Fourth National Climate Assessment. 
 
Uncertainties remain. Although the frequency of wildfires overall is very likely to increase as temperatures warm, where and when they’ll spark is difficult to impossible to predict. 

 

 

 

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