Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Climate change will boost number of US West's wildfires

Deborah Zabarenko in Reuters: Climate change will make U.S. western wildfires, like those now raging in parts of Colorado and New Mexico, more frequent over the next 30 years, researchers reported on Tuesday. More broadly, almost all of North America and most of Europe will see wildfires more often by the year 2100, the scientists wrote in the journal Ecosphere, a publication of the Ecological Society of America.

Using satellite-based fire records and 16 different climate change models, the international team of researchers found that while wildfires will increase in many temperate zones due to rising temperatures, fire risk may actually decrease around the Equator, especially in tropical rainforests, because of increased rainfall.

"In the long run, we found what most fear - increasing fire activity across large areas of the planet," lead author Max Moritz of the University of California-Berkeley. "But the speed and extent to which some of these changes may happen is surprising. These abrupt changes in fire patterns not only affects people's livelihoods, but also they add stress to native plants and animals that are already struggling to adapt to habitat loss," Moritz said in a statement.

Co-author Katharine Hayhoe of Texas Tech University said this study gives a unique global perspective on recent fire patterns and their relationship to climate....

Whitewater-Baldy Complex wildfire, Gila National Forest, New Mexico, USA. Photo by Kari Greer. Credit USFS Gila National Forest, Kari Greer / Gila National Forest. Wikimedia Commons via Flickr, under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 2.0 Generic license

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