Analysis suggests global fire risk is increasing

North America and most of Europe could see more wildfires by century’s end. But fire activity could decrease around equator, because of increased rainfall.

Maybe because I live in Texas – where our drought-stricken state had a truly hellacious wildfire season peaking in late August and early September 2011 – studies on wildfires now get my attention. An international team of scientists released an analysis of the global risk of wildfires in a warming world in early June 2012. It suggests that global warming will disrupt future fire patterns around the world, with some regions, such as the western United States, seeing more frequent fires within the next 30 years.

Fires burn across the hillside near homes in Portola Hills, California. Image via UC Berkeley

The study – which was led by scientists at the University of California, Berkeley – suggests that by the end of the 21st century, almost all of North America and most of Europe could see a jump in the frequency of wildfires, primarily because of increasing temperatures. At the same time, fire activity could actually decrease around equatorial regions, particularly among the tropical rainforests, because of increased rainfall.

The study was published on June 12, 2012 in Ecosphere, the peer-reviewed journal of the Ecological Society of America. These researchers used 16 different climate change models to generate what they say is “one of the most comprehensive projections to date” of how climate change might affect global fire patterns.

Read more about this study from UC Berkeley

Fires burning in Texas on September 5, 2011. Image Credit: Texas Forest Service Fire Activity

2011 was one of the worst years for wildfires in the U.S.

See how fast wildfire spreads – great video

Deborah Byrd

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