According to a recently published research in Nature Communications, the number of climate-induced wildfires per year has increased by almost 20 percent in the period from 1979 to 2013. With the ongoing climate change and the rise in temperatures and drought, wildfires have been happening a lot more often than they used to. The research also showed that not only did the number of fires increase, but more lands are now at danger too, as the risk of a wildfire happening in your neighborhood has doubled between in the last 30 years.
One of the lead authors of the study, W. Matt Jolly, a U.S. Forest Service Fire Science Laboratory scientist said that these changes in temperature and humidity are the main causers of these fires and those factors can be utilized to understand fire activity on the global level.
More wildfire days means more people (and their homes) are in danger – not only of burning and dying in a fire, but of becoming ill because of all the smoke.
Namely, the research in question suggested that this smoke inhaled passively over an extended period of time (which has now become a common thing due to prolonged wildfire season) is likely to cause heart conditions in those who live in urban areas. And this is not just a local thing. Wildfires are occurring all over the planet except in Australia, as research shows (Antarctica was not included in the study), and the number of wildfire days has increased everywhere, with some differences. For instance, in subtropical grassland and savanna areas in South America wildfire season now lasts a month longer, while in Northeast Africa it lasted 21 days this year.
This research is the only of its kind that went that much in depth, and it was based on exploring the weather factors, such as temperature, precipitation, humidity, etc.
The daily risk of wildfire occurrence was calculated by measuring the potential causers and the research team calculated how long would a fire season last on average, and how much different the numbers really are. Gathering data, calculating and making comparisons, although it is something new and relatively unexplored, is easier than it ever was due to the availability of data and records of previous events, so it is less difficult to make assessments of fire occurrences in the past and make predictions about the future.
Jolly predicts that wildfire season will either become longer-lasting or more variable over time.
But we don’t have to wait for the future to come, Australia is already experiencing dry-wet year variations, and recently, very dry seasons followed by wildfires were preceded by a very long and intense wet season. Understanding the changes that are happening will help us know the potential dangers and lead us to the solution.
The mentioned study mainly focuses on wildfires caused by weather factors, and doesn’t take human actions into consideration, so this is only the beginning of recognizing the problem and finding long term solutions. Jolly suggests that satellite data should be observed in order to figure out how weather changes impact the occurrence of wildfire, or the lack of it. They also need to analyze which areas of human activity are the greatest causers of these fires and where people are in danger the most. Until all the factors that cause these long wildfire seasons aren’t understood, a proper and long term solution will not be found, so hopefully new studies involving more extensive research will be conducted soon and the occurrences of wildfires will be controlled and limited.