Climate Change Could Lead to Extreme Wildfires in Western US, Researchers Predict
Climate change is leading to larger wildfires, according to a new study.
The study was conducted by a team of researchers led by Michigan State University scientists. They found that future atmospheric conditions may give rise to widespread wildfires.
Recently, large wildfires in Alaska charred more than half a million acres at a time, The Los Angeles Times reported. While a recent study found that wildfires could drive up global warming by releasing more carbon-containing particles, another claimed that global warming was making tundra forests more flammable.
Recently, a deadly fire broke-out in Arizona, leading to the death of 19 firefighters. Researchers in the present study said that such fires could become common in the west.
"Our findings suggest that future lower atmospheric conditions may favor larger and more extreme wildfires, posing an additional challenge to fire and forest management," said Lifeng Luo, assistant professor of geography at MSU and lead author of the study, according to a news release.
The researchers used information from regional climate models to analyze the prediction for wildfires in many regions including Arizona, Idaho, Nevada, New Mexico, Utah and Wyoming. They focused on wildfire predictions for the month of August as this time of the year is most wildfire-prone.
They found that August 2012 had fewer fires (6,498) when compared with other years, however, these fires led to the burning of 3.6 million acres of forest area.
According to the team, conditions near the ground, type of vegetation and precipitation levels etc are related with large forest fires. And, climate change may accelerate the rate at which they spread.
"Global climate change may have a significant impact on these factors, thus affecting potential wildfire activity across many parts of the world," the study said.
The study is published in the Journal of Applied Meteorology and Climatology.