Australia’s forest fires linked to climate change

Friday 10 Dec 2021

New research by CSIRO, Australia’s national science agency, shows climate change has driven a significant increase in Australia’s forest fire activity over the last three decades. A lengthening of the fire season towards Autumn and Winter were also identified, along with an increase in fire activity in cooler and warmer regions including alpine forests in Tasmania and tropical rainforests in Queensland.

The research published in Nature Communications is the first of its kind and combines analysis of previous forest fire sites with eight drivers of fire activity including climate, fuel accumulation, ignition and management (prescribed burning).

Thirty-two years of satellite data and 90 years of ground-based datasets from climate and weather observations, and simulated fuel loads for Australian forests, formed the basis of the research, which allowed researchers to identify climate change driven increases versus natural variability.

CSIRO scientist, Dr Pep Canadell, said the research was one of the most extensive studies of its kind performed to date, and was important for understanding how continued changes to the climate might impact future fire activity.

“While all eight drivers of fire-activity played varying roles in influencing forest fires, climate was the overwhelming factor driving fire-activity,” Dr Canadell said. “The results also suggest the frequency of forest megafires are likely to continue under future projected climate change.”

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Source: CSIRO

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