July 14, 2024

Research on wildfire risk in Canada: Climate change favors fire

Research on wildfire risk in Canada: Climate change favors fire

A study shows: CO2 emissions make warmer and drier climates more likely. It also increases the risk of forest fires.

Great fire in the Quebec forest in June 2023 Photo: Canadian Forces/Reuters

Berlin taz | Images of walls of fire and fog went around the world: Forest fires raged in the Canadian province of Quebec between May and July. At least 17 people died, 150,000 people were evacuated, many houses were burned, and even New York, 600 kilometers away, was sometimes surrounded by clouds of yellow smoke from Canada. Even in parts of Europe they are still found in fine traces. Weather conditions at that time were at least twice as high due to the climate crisis, now showing one study.

Forest fires are not fueled by specific weather conditions, they first require a spark such as lightning, cigarette butts or a campfire. However, fires spread easily during hot, dry and windy conditions, especially in dry wooded areas.

Such weather prevailed in Quebec during the severe fires of early summer – and is not impossible without climate change, but much less likely. This is shown by the study of research effort World weather attributeIts studies continue to look for the contribution of climate change to individual weather events.

Scientists use climate models to determine how likely the weather event in question is to occur. Then the global warming variable is adjusted. In a computer-simulated world without human emissions of greenhouse gases, the probability is tested again. If it’s lower now, the difference could be attributed to the current climate crisis.

Only proven methods

The same was true of weather conditions studied in Canada, which were at least twice as likely and 20 to 50 percent more likely to result from the climate crisis. The scientists published the results themselves, not in a specialized journal. This is typical of the global weather attribute.

Firefighter in a burning forest

A forest in Quebec will be inspected by authorities in July after a fire Photo: Adrian Wilde/The Canadian Press/AP

The team always wants to make its analysis available to the public as quickly as possible after an extreme weather event. The normal publishing process will drag it out. It also means that the results did not go through the usual testing procedures of independent colleagues. However, researchers only use methods where this applies.

Match conditions

“Rising temperatures are creating matchbox conditions in Canadian forests and around the world,” said Friedrich Otto, a climate scientist at Imperial College London who leads the global climate assessment. “Until we stop burning fossil fuels, there will be more and more wildfires, burning larger areas and lasting longer.”

In total, nearly 14 million hectares burned in Canada between May and June — double the previous record for the period, an area larger than Greece. “The word ‘unprecedented’ does not do justice to the strength of the wildfire season in Canada this year,” said Yann Boulanger of Natural Resources Canada.

Fire intensity, or at least favorable climatic conditions, should not be coincidental: even with the current 1.2 degrees of global warming, according to the current study they will occur once every 25 years.

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Meanwhile, the pattern is on fire again, this time in Western Canada. In the province of British Columbia and the Northwest Territories, tens of thousands of people have been forced to flee their homes, and air quality is also worsening because of the smoke.

In Greece, there has been another major fire, similar to the one in the Canary Island of Tenerife. In the U.S. state of Hawaii, wildfires on the island of Maui in August left more than 100 people dead and about 1,000 people still missing.