Lower humidity and higher temperatures are driving extreme weather that makes wildfires more frequent and intense, say experts.
The world’s eight most extreme wildfire weather years have occurred in the last decade, according to a new study that suggests extreme fire weather is being driven by a decrease in atmospheric humidity coupled with rising temperatures.
“Extreme conditions drive the world’s fire activity,” said former University of Alberta wildfire expert Michael Flannigan, who conducted the research with study lead Piyush Jain, research scientist with Natural Resources Canada, and Sean Coogan, post-doctoral fellow in the Faculty of Agricultural, Life & Environmental Sciences. “For example, in Canada, just three per cent of fires are responsible for 97 per cent of the area burned.”
Flannigan, who joined Thompson Rivers University in August, explained the team examined extreme fire weather trends from 1979 to 2020 using common fire weather indexes that provide estimates for fire intensity and rate of fire spread, as well as changes in vapour pressure, or humidity.
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