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Another Cost of Climate Change: More Wildfires
  • Robert Preidt
  • Posted January 16, 2020

Another Cost of Climate Change: More Wildfires

Wildfires like the ones that have ravaged Australia in recent months are likely to become more common as climate change continues to wreak havoc on the planet, a new study suggests.

The Australian wildfires prompted British researchers to review 57 studies published since 2013.

All of the studies show an association between human-driven climate change and increased frequency or severity of weather conditions linked with wildfires, such as high temperatures, low humidity, low rainfall and high winds.

Observational data show that wildfire weather seasons have become longer across about 25% of the Earth's vegetated areas, resulting in about a 20% increase in global mean length of the fire weather season.

"Overall, the 57 papers reviewed clearly show human-induced warming has already led to a global increase in the frequency and severity of fire weather, increasing the risks of wildfire," said review lead author Matthew Jones. He's a senior research associate at the Tyndall Center for Climate Change Research at the University of East Anglia in Norwich, England.

"This has been seen in many regions, including the western U.S. and Canada, southern Europe, Scandinavia and Amazonia. Human-induced warming is also increasing fire risks in other regions, including Siberia and Australia," Jones added in a university news release.

"However, there is also evidence that humans have significant potential to control how this fire risk translates into fire activity, in particular through land management decisions and ignition sources," Jones said.

The review was published Jan. 13 in ScienceBrief.

"Wildfires can't be prevented, and the risks are increasing because of climate change. This makes it urgent to consider ways of reducing the risks to people," Iain Colin Prentice, director of the Leverhulme Centre for Wildfires, Environment and Society at Imperial College London, said in the release. "Land planning should take the increasing risk in fire weather into account."

More information

The Center for Climate and Energy Solutions has more on climate change and wildfires.

SOURCE: University of East Anglia, news release, Jan. 13, 2020
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