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Tags Current Affairs

Link between climate change and wildfires

Date: 27 September 2020 Tags: Climate Change

Issue

Scientists have deduced that human-induced climate change promotes the conditions on which wildfires depend, enhancing their likelihood and challenging suppression efforts. 

 

Background

The update focuses on the ongoing wildfires in the western US and the bushfires that ravaged south-eastern Australia in 2019-2020.

 

Details

  • Climate change increases the frequency and severity of fire weather around the world and that land management alone cannot explain recent increases in wildfire because increased fire weather from climate change amplifies fire risk where fuels remain available.

  • The Fifth Assessment Report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), which was published in 2013, identified a few factors that could influence the way wildfires play out.

  • These include global increase in average temperatures, global increases in the frequency, intensity, and extent of heatwaves (breaching of historically extreme temperature thresholds) and regional increases in the frequency, duration, and intensity of droughts.

  • While wildfires are typical in both California and parts of Australia in the summer months, the intensity and scale of wildfires that these areas have seen in recent years has raised some concerns among scientists about the linkages between human-induced climate change and fire risk.

  • Scientists are wary of attributing any single contemporary event to climate change, mainly because of the difficulty in completely ruling out the possibility of the event having been caused by some other reason, or a result of natural variability.

  • However, in the results of the new analysis, the authors note that natural variability is superimposed on the increasingly warm and dry conditions that have resulted from climate change, which has led to more extreme fires and more extreme fire seasons.

  • Significantly, the authors have said that while land management is also likely to contribute to the wildfires, it does not alone account for the recent increases in the extent and severity of the wildfires in the western US and in southeast Australia.

  • The fires killed thousands of animals and impacted more than 10 million hectares of forest land, which is an area the size of South Korea.

  •  Scientists suggested at the time that there was strong evidence to suggest that the bushfires, which were especially fierce last year, could be linked to climate change.

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