Climate change to raise global fire risk

June 12, 2012 at 4:13 PM
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BERKELEY, Calif., June 12 (UPI) -- Climate change will increase fire risk, with some regions like the western United States seeing more frequent fires within the next 30 years, researchers say.

With increasing warming trends almost all of North America and most of Europe is will see a rise in the frequency of wildfires, an analysis led by researchers at the University of California, Berkeley, in collaboration with an international team of scientists, found.

In contrast, the researchers reported, fire activity could actually decrease around equatorial regions because of increased rainfall.

Scientists used 16 climate change models to generate comprehensive projections of how climate change might affect global fire patterns.

"In the long run, we found what most fear -- increasing fire activity across large parts of the planet," study lead author Max Moritz said in a UC Berkeley release Tuesday.

"But the speed and extent to which some of these changes may happen is surprising."

Experts in conservation and urban development should include these fire projections in long-term planning and risk analysis, researchers said.

"When many different models paint the same picture, that gives us confidence that the results of our study reflect a robust fire frequency projection for that region," study co-author Katharine Hayhoe of Texas Tech University said. "What is clear is that the choices we are making as a society right now and in the next few decades will determine what Earth's climate will look like over this century and beyond."

"We need to learn how to coexist with fire," Moritz said.

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