Saturday, August 31, 2013

Global Warming Will Increase Wildfires by 2050

Wildfires have become a major issue as they blaze across acres of land, consuming trees, dry grass, houses and anything else in their path. Climate change may be worsening wildfires and by 2050 the wildfire season will be about three weeks longer, twice as smoky and will burn a wider area in western states.

The Center is promoting a Wildfire Mitigation Program (WMP) to mitigate the damage from wildfires.  The WMP will utilize young people to create firebreaks.  A firebreak or fuelbreak is a strip of plowed or cleared land made to check the spreak of a prairie or forest fire.  We intend to gather and stockpile the wood to provide fuel for small (10-megawatt) wood-chip-to-electricity power plants.  We are recommending firebreaks that are much wider than those pictured below.

Wildfires are triggered by two of influences--mainly human activity and lightning. Yet they're very difficult to predict since they can grow and spread according to a completely different range of influences that are heavily dependent on the weather. For example, wind levels from day to day can drastically impact how far a blaze spreads.

In order to actual predict these wildfires, the researchers looked to the past. They examined records of past weather conditions and wildfires in order to determine the main factors influencing the spread of the fire from region to region. They then created mathematical models that closely linked these variables with the observed wildfire outcomes for six "ecoregions" in the West.


After creating these models, the researchers then replaced historical observations with data based on the conclusions of the fourth Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. In the end, they found exactly how much area would be burned in each ecoregion in 2050. Some of the most startling findings were that the area burned in the month of August could increase by 65 percent in the Pacific Northwest and could nearly double in the Eastern Rocky Mountains/Great Plains region. It could also quadruple in the Rocky Mountains Forest reason. In addition, the probability of large fires could increase by factors of two or three.

The findings are published in the journal Atmospheric Environment.  (Science World Report, 8/30/2013)

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