Australia’s Bushfires Will Be ‘Normal’ In The Future, Climate Experts Warn
The Australian bushfire crisis has wreaked devastation across the country, with the world looking on in horror as millions of animals continue to succumb to the flames.
It’s perhaps comforting to imagine an end to this crisis, a time when the blaze will ease and the wildlife will begin to heal and flourish once more. Sadly, things might not be quite so simple.
Scientists have warned such catastrophic wildfires could become ‘normal’ in the future, exacerbated by the effects of climate change.
A review of 57 papers published since 2013 suggest clear and terrifying links between man-made climate change and vulnerability to wildfires.
Observational data suggests fire weather extremes are already becoming ‘more frequent and intense’ in Australia, with similar effects expected to be felt across various parts of the world in the years to come.
According to a statement of the review, published in ScienceBrief, ‘fire weather seasons’ have lengthened across the globe between the years 1979 and 2013, and matters could well get worse:
Models project that the length of fire weather season will increase by more than 20 days per year in the northern high latitudes by the end of this century (Flannigan et al., 2013).
Models also indicate that current ‘100-year’fire events, in terms of burned area, will occur every 5 to 50 years across Europe by the end of the century (Forzieri et al., 2016).
Modelling of Alaskan fire risk indicates a four-fold increase in the 30-year probability of fire occurrence by 2100 due to climate change (Young et al., 2017).
The review found climate change had increased the frequency and severity of what scientists refer to as ‘fire weather periods’, due to rising temperatures, low humidity, low rainfall and strong winds.
Aside from Australia, similar patterns have been noted in regions as varied as the western United States and Canada, southern Europe, Scandinavia, the Amazon and Siberia.
Richard Betts – Head of Climate Impacts Research at Britain’s Met Office Hadley Centre and co-author of the review – spoke about the findings before a press conference in London on Monday, January 13.
As reported by Reuters, Betts warned:
Temperature conditions in Australia are extreme at the moment but they are what we expect to happen on average in a world of three degrees of global warming. It brings it home to you what climate change means.
Betts explained Australia was particularly vulnerable to wildfires due to its land area having warmed by more than the average global temperature rise of approximately one degree Celsius since pre-industrial times.
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