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Extreme fires will increasingly be part of our global landscape, researchers predict

Date:
February 6, 2017
Source:
University of Tasmania
Summary:
An international team has used satellite technology to review 23 million fire events globally between 2002-2013, identifying the 478 most extreme wildfires. They have found fire-prone cities must rethink their defenses or face catastrophic consequences into the future. The researchers used climate change modelling to predict an increase of 20-50 percent in the number of days conducive to extreme wildfire events.
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An international collaboration has compiled a global satellite database of the intensity of 23 million landscape fires between 2002 and 2013.
Credit: © Viesinsh / Fotolia

Increasingly dangerous fire weather is forecast for Australia and the Mediterranean as the global footprint of extreme fires expands, according to the latest research.

University of Tasmania Professor of Environmental Change Biology David Bowman led an international collaboration -- including researchers from the University of Idaho and South Dakota State University -- to compile a global satellite database of the intensity of 23 million landscape fires used to identify 478 of the most extreme wildfire events.

"Extreme fire events are a global and natural phenomenon, particularly in forested areas that have pronounced dry seasons," Professor Bowman said.

"With the exception of land clearance, the research found that extremely intense fires are associated with anomalous weather -- such as droughts, winds, or in desert regions, following particularly wet seasons.

"Of the top 478 events, we identified 144 economically and socially disastrous extreme fire events that were concentrated in regions where humans have built into flammable forested landscapes, such as areas surrounding cities in southern Australia and western North America."

Using climate change model projections to investigate the likely consequences of climate change, the research found more extreme fires are predicted in the future for Australia's east coast, including Brisbane, and the whole of the Mediterranean region -- Portugal, Spain, France, Greece and Turkey.

"The projections suggest an increase in the days conducive to extreme wildfire events by 20 to 50 per cent in these disaster-prone landscapes, with sharper increases in the subtropical Southern Hemisphere, and the European Mediterranean Basin," Professor Bowman said.

The research has been published in the scientific journal Nature Ecology and Evolution.

The research is released on the day the State remembers the impact of the 1967 bushfires in the city of Hobart and across the South, which claimed the lives of 62 people, left 900 injured and more than 7,000 homeless.


Story Source:

Materials provided by University of Tasmania. Note: Content may be edited for style and length.


Journal Reference:

  1. David M. J. S. Bowman, Grant J. Williamson, John T. Abatzoglou, Crystal A. Kolden, Mark A. Cochrane, Alistair M. S. Smith. Human exposure and sensitivity to globally extreme wildfire events. Nature Ecology & Evolution, 2017; 1: 0058 DOI: 10.1038/s41559-016-0058

Cite This Page:

University of Tasmania. "Extreme fires will increasingly be part of our global landscape, researchers predict." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 6 February 2017. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2017/02/170206111908.htm>.
University of Tasmania. (2017, February 6). Extreme fires will increasingly be part of our global landscape, researchers predict. ScienceDaily. Retrieved April 25, 2017 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2017/02/170206111908.htm
University of Tasmania. "Extreme fires will increasingly be part of our global landscape, researchers predict." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2017/02/170206111908.htm (accessed April 25, 2017).