A team of scientists, led by FFS Research Ecologist Matt Jolly, Missoula, have found that fire weather seasons across the globe have increased by nearly 20 percent and the global burnable area doubled (nearly 110 percent) over the past 35 years. Matt and team members from the USFS, South Dakota State University, the Desert Research Institute and the University of Tasmania, Australia, recently published “Climate-induced Variations in Global Wildfire Danger from 1979 to 2013” in the journal Nature Communications. Since its publication, more than 25 national and international news agencies have referenced this study. Wildfire activity is driven by three key factors; fuels, sources of ignition, and weather (temperature, relative humidity, precipitation, and wind speed). Of the three factors, weather is the most variable and largest driver of regional burned area.
“So we separated weather from the other driving factors in order to isolate the impacts of climate change on wildland fire potential,” said Matt.
The methodology used in this study to explore and explain complex observed variations in fire activity is relevant when applied to any given geographic area whether it is local, regional, national or international. Understanding what is driving these trends can help managers toward mitigating increased wildfire potential, which can have pronounced global socio-economic, ecological and climate system impacts.