Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

Modest Climate Change Could Lead To Substantially More And Larger Fires

Date:
September 1, 2004
Source:
USDA Forest Service, Pacific Northwest Research Station
Summary:
The area burned by wildfires in 11 Western states could double by the end of the century if summer climate warms by slightly more than a degree and a half, say researchers with the U.S. Department of Agriculture Forest Service and Pacific Northwest Climate Impacts Group at the University of Washington.

The area burned by wildfires in 11 Western states could double by the end of the century if summer climate warms by slightly more than a degree and a half, say researchers with the U.S. Department of Agriculture Forest Service and Pacific Northwest Climate Impacts Group at the University of Washington.

Montana, Wyoming and New Mexico appear acutely sensitive, especially to temperature changes, and fire seasons there may respond more dramatically to global warming than in states such as California and Nevada.

Researchers have developed statistical relationships between observed climate and an 85-year record of fire extent during the 20th century and used them in conjunction with existing state-of-the-art global climate models.

"Models linking area burned in the Western states with fire-season temperature predict that global warming will bring significant increases in fire extent," said Donald McKenzie of the USDA Forest Service's Pacific Wildland Fire Science Lab. "Such increases could have consequences for threatened and endangered species in ecosystems that experience increased fire because many such species are already restricted to specialized and fragmented habitat."

McKenzie is lead author of "Climatic Change, Wildfire and Conservation," in the August issue of Conservation Biology. His co-authors are Ze'ev Gedalof of the University of Guelph in Ontario, David Peterson of the USDA Forest Service and Philip Mote, UW climate scientist and Washington state climatologist. All are members of the UW's Pacific Northwest Climate Impacts Group.

Their analysis of past climate and fire histories showed that the most important variable is summer temperature, more important than precipitation in most cases.

Using what is considered a low-end climate-change scenario - a 1.6 degree increase in summer temperatures between 2070 and 2100 compared to temperatures from 1970 to 2000 -the area burned will increase by 1.4 to five times in western states except California and Nevada, where the increase isn't so great.

Fire in California and Nevada appears to be relatively insensitive to changes in summer climate and the total area burned in these states may not respond strongly to changed climate. Parts of Northern California where warmer climate could affect the number and extent of fires, for example, are offset by areas in Southern California where fires are almost all caused by human activities and the combination of high temperatures and dry air associated with the Santa Ana winds, not temperature by itself, McKenzie says.

At the other extreme are Montana, Wyoming and New Mexico. Montana is the most sensitive, with the models predicting a 5-fold increase in mean area burned over the observed range in climate, the authors write.

In Washington and Oregon, the effects will be intermediate because precipitation and temperature are both associated with fire extent in these states, rather than temperature alone.

More frequent, more extensive fires in forest ecosystems will likely reduce the number and size of patches of older forests, the authors say. Corridors of wild areas between forests, through which species might migrate if their home territory goes up in flames, also could be affected, possibly eliminated.

"The winners after fires in these cases are the weedy, adaptive, quickly reproducing species," McKenzie says. "The losers are the ones needing more stable environments."


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by USDA Forest Service, Pacific Northwest Research Station. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Cite This Page:

USDA Forest Service, Pacific Northwest Research Station. "Modest Climate Change Could Lead To Substantially More And Larger Fires." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 1 September 2004. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2004/09/040901091106.htm>.
USDA Forest Service, Pacific Northwest Research Station. (2004, September 1). Modest Climate Change Could Lead To Substantially More And Larger Fires. ScienceDaily. Retrieved September 17, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2004/09/040901091106.htm
USDA Forest Service, Pacific Northwest Research Station. "Modest Climate Change Could Lead To Substantially More And Larger Fires." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2004/09/040901091106.htm (accessed September 17, 2014).

Share This



More Earth & Climate News

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

Raw: Scientists Examine Colossal Squid

Raw: Scientists Examine Colossal Squid

AP (Sep. 16, 2014) Squid experts in New Zealand thawed and examined an unusual catch on Tuesday: a colossal squid. It was captured in Antarctica's remote Ross Sea in December last year and has been frozen for eight months. (Sept. 16) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Man Floats for 31 Hours in Gulf Waters

Man Floats for 31 Hours in Gulf Waters

AP (Sep. 16, 2014) A Texas man is lucky to be alive after he and three others floated for more than a day in the Gulf of Mexico when their boat sank during a fishing trip. (Sept. 16) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Researchers Explore Shipwrecks Off Calif. Coast

Researchers Explore Shipwrecks Off Calif. Coast

AP (Sep. 16, 2014) Federal researchers are exploring more than a dozen underwater sites where they believe ships sank in the treacherous waters west of San Francisco in the decades following the Gold Rush. (Sept. 16) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Isolated N. Korea Asks For International Help With Volcano

Isolated N. Korea Asks For International Help With Volcano

Newsy (Sep. 16, 2014) Mount Paektu volcano in North Korea is showing signs of life and there's not much known about it. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com

Search ScienceDaily

Number of stories in archives: 140,361

Find with keyword(s):
Enter a keyword or phrase to search ScienceDaily for related topics and research stories.

Save/Print:
Share:

Breaking News:
from the past week

In Other News

... from NewsDaily.com

Science News

Health News

Environment News

    Technology News



    Save/Print:
    Share:

    Free Subscriptions


    Get the latest science news with ScienceDaily's free email newsletters, updated daily and weekly. Or view hourly updated newsfeeds in your RSS reader:

    Get Social & Mobile


    Keep up to date with the latest news from ScienceDaily via social networks and mobile apps:

    Have Feedback?


    Tell us what you think of ScienceDaily -- we welcome both positive and negative comments. Have any problems using the site? Questions?
    Mobile: iPhone Android Web
    Follow: Facebook Twitter Google+
    Subscribe: RSS Feeds Email Newsletters
    Latest Headlines Health & Medicine Mind & Brain Space & Time Matter & Energy Computers & Math Plants & Animals Earth & Climate Fossils & Ruins