Saturday, October 20, 2012

Spanish study matches forest fires to the last two years high temperatures

PhysOrg: A study led by some University of Barcelona researchers analyses the impact of interannual and seasonal climate variability on the fires occurred in Catalonia last summer. The study concludes that summer fires, related to summer climate conditions, are correlated with antecedent climate conditions, especially winter and spring ones with a lag time of two years. The results suggest that precipitation and temperature conditions regulate fuel flammability and fuel structure.

According to the correlations observed, the study provides a model to produce long-term predictions. The study, published in the journal Climatic Change, comes out of the doctoral thesis of the researcher Marco Turco, directed by the UB researcher Maria del Carme Llasat, co-author of the article.

From 1983 to 2007, period analysed in the study, more than 16000 fires events were recorded and the total burned area was more than 240000 hectares, around 7.5 % of Catalonia. The work develops a statistical analysis of these fires and shows that, from a climate point of view, according to Maria del Carme Llasat, "is possible to develop a model that gives us an estimation of the number of fires and the extension of the burned area related to monthly average temperature and rainfall. We developed a simple regression model which includes the influence of spring-summer climate conditions of the studied year, but specially other variables which are determinant, although they do not seem to."

The established correlations allow us to prove that, for example, low minimum temperatures in winter and summer contribute to an increase in the number of fires. However, the extension of the burned area highly depends on the winter months' rainfall, and in both cases on the winter-spring temperatures with a time lag of two years....

Sun obscured by the smoke of a 2010 wildfire near Guitiande, in BriĆ³n, Galicia, Spain. Shot by Tapetum, Wikimedia Commons via Flickr, under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 2.0 Generic license

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