Every day I see emerging news stories on wildfires in the West – they seem to be everywhere. California in particular appears to be on fire. Wildfires occur at the intersection of dry weather, available fuel and ignition sources and we have lots of all three.
Well actually now, a new climate change study has revealed that the wildfire season globally has lengthened by almost 20 percent in 35 years as the average temperature has risen. The study printed in Nature, notes that the fire weather seasons have lengthened across 29.6 million square kilometres (11.4 million square miles) of the Earth’s vegetated surface. This resulted in a 18.7-percent increase in season length overall.
The researchers used climate data and three indices of fire danger, to produce an overview of fire season length from 1979 to 2013. Weather is the largest driver of fire risk—temperature, humidity, rainfall and wind speed all influence the frequency and intensity of wildfires. These factors, in turn, are all affected by a changing climate.
The study showed that the fire weather season length and long fire weather season affected area significantly increased across all vegetated continents except Australia. And the study warned that if these trends continue, increased wildfire potential may have pronounced global socio-economic, ecological and climate system impacts.