Saturday, June 9, 2012

Climate change to bring more severe wildfires to British Columbia

Michael Vinkin Lee in the Vancouver Sun: The number of major forest fires in B.C. will likely increase by 50 per cent or more in the next 40 years according to a recent report on climate change. Telling the Weather Story, released this week by the Insurance Bureau of Canada, addresses altering weather patterns across the country in the coming decades and urges Canadians to adjust to the realities of climate change.

The study predicts B.C. can expect an increase in wildfires over the average of nearly 2,000 blazes a year between 2000 and 2010. Furthermore, the province will likely see a host of other weather-related issues like warmer temperatures, declining — and, in some regions, disappearing — mountain snowpacks, more intense rainfall during the winter, and drier summers. The number of wildfires sparked by lightning strikes — responsible for nearly 60 per cent of fires — is also expected to rise.

“It’s not a just a possibility,” said Dr. Gordon McBean, the report’s lead researcher. “There’s a very real probability it will happen.” McBean, a climatologist and professor at the University of Western Ontario, conducted the research with cooperation from the Institute for Catastrophic Loss Reduction, where he also serves as policy chairman.

He explained the study arrived at the predicted figures by linking existing data on blazes caused by lightning to climate conditions. The information was then put through a simulation that projected ahead to 2030 and 2060.

“The scientific community [behind the report] is very confident,” McBean said. “These projections are based on very solid science. Climate change is already happening in Canada.”...

Northwest Crown Fire Experiment, Northwest Territories, Canada. Photograph used by permission of the USDA Forest Service, Wikimedia Commons, under the Creative Commons Attribution 2.5 Generic license

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