September 29, 2023

Climate Change: Increasing frequency of flammable weather

A forest fire is raging in the Toney Creek region of western Canada.

Photo: dpa/AP/Noah Berger

There are now some bright spots in Canada’s fight against devastating fires. But this year, the North American country experienced the most destructive wildfire season in its history, with no end in sight.

A new study makes clear that Canada may have to reckon with such dramatic scenarios in the future. Accordingly, climate change in general has significantly increased the likelihood of a fire season like the current one. In its study, the climate research group World Weather Attribution (WWA) examined weather conditions that led to particularly severe fires in the province of Quebec between May and July. The fires here were sometimes so intense that plumes of smoke were sent hundreds of kilometers south to New York and other American cities on the East Coast.

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The conclusion of the WWA study, which involved 17 researchers from universities and meteorological authorities in Canada, the United States, Great Britain and the Netherlands: Climate change has caused fires in the eastern Canadian province this year, which are four times larger. Germany’s dimension is at least twice as likely. The international team also found that it intensified flammable weather conditions — heat, drought, high winds — by 20 to 50 percent.

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According to the research team, wildfires spread particularly quickly and widely this year because temperatures rose sharply early, humidity was low and snow cover disappeared unusually quickly. May and June had new temperature records. To measure the impact of climate change on fire-dangerous weather, the team analyzed existing weather data and computer model simulations and compared them to today’s climate before global warming began in the 19th century.

However, despite this year’s unprecedented weather, researchers stress that people in Canada should expect similar conditions in the future. Given today’s climate, a similar weather event can be expected to occur on average once every 25 years. “The analysis also shows that if the Earth continues to warm, the risk of even larger wildfires will continue to increase,” says the WWA Initiative’s study.

Co-author Friedrich Otto of Imperial College London said of the results: “Higher temperatures are leading to more dangerous fire conditions in forests in Canada and around the world.” According to climate scientist, continues to increase.

Canadian Red Cross President Conrad Chau underscored the importance of such investigations as the number of extreme weather events affecting communities across the country increases each year. “By better understanding hazards, we can use risk reduction strategies to reduce the severity of disasters for people in Canada and around the world.” A decade ago, Sauvé said most of his organization’s disaster response activities were overseas. Today one should focus on Canada because “we know that fire risk will increase in the coming years”.