An upside of the increase in forest fires in the West is that they reduce the amount of fuel available for other burns.
That might provide a buffering effect on western fires for the next few decades, but the threat of climate-driven forest fires is not diminishing, a new study shows.
Without substantial changes in how people interact with wildfire in the western U.S., climate change will increasingly put people in harm’s way as fires become larger and more severe.
UC Merced professors John Abatzoglou and Crystal Kolden, with the School of Engineering, along with collaborators from the University of Washington, UCLA and the Cary Institute, recently published a paper in the journal Nature Communications Earth and Environment detailing their findings:
- Climate-driven increases in forest-fire area in the western U.S. are likely to continue in the coming few decades;
- Dynamic feedbacks between fire and fuel availability can reduce increasing fire activity, but are unlikely to ward off climate-driven increases in forest fire extent; and
- Extreme West-wide fire seasons similar to 2020 will become more common, but not every year will be that severe.
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