Wildfire Increase is Subject of US Report – and the Dark Snow Project
April 8, 2013
As Jason Box outlines above, the cumulative effects of increasing wildfires on Greenland, and global ice in general, will be the impetus for the DarkSnowProject – Dr. Box’s research expedition to Greenland this summer, which I will be documenting. The basic premise: the Greenland ice sheet has been observed to be gradually darkening over the past decade. Some of that darkening may be caused by increased soot from North American Wildfires. I’ll be announcing more developments on this very soon.
Below, more evidence from US Government agencies on the climate driven increase in wildfires expected in coming decades.
The hotter, drier climate will transform Rocky Mountain forests, unleashing wider wildfires and insect attacks, federal scientists warn in a report for Congress and the White House.
The U.S. Forest Service scientists project that, by 2050, the area burned each year by increasingly severe wildfires will at least double, to around 20 million acres nationwide.
Some regions, including western Colorado, are expected to face up to a fivefold increase in acres burned if climate change continues on the current trajectory.
Floods, droughts and heat waves, driven by changing weather patterns, also are expected to spur bug infestations of the sort seen across 4 million acres of Colorado pine forests.
Wildfires in the U.S. will be at least twice as destructive by 2050, burning around 20 million acres nationwide each year, according to a federal report released by the U.S. Department of Agriculture. Scientists from the U.S. Forest Service, who authored the report, found regions such as western Colorado — which already experienced its most destructive wildfire in history last summer — will face an even greater risk fire risk: those regions are expected to face up to a five-fold increase in acres burned by 2050.
The report’s findings are in line with previous studies on climate change’s relation to fire risk: a 2012 study found that wildfire burn season is two and a half months longer than it was 40 years ago, and that for every one degree Celsius temperature increase the earth experiences, the area burned in the western U.S. could quadruple. The findings are also in line with the observed impacts climate change is having on wildfires. Wildfires in 2012 burned a record 9.2 million acres in the U.S., and record-breaking heat and dry weather in Australia provided ideal conditions for at least 90 fires that raged through the country this January.
The report also outlines the other effects climate change will have on the forests of the U.S. The Rocky Mountain forests are expected to become hotter and drier as the planet warms, conditions that in addition to wildfires will lead to an increase in infestations of insects such as the bark beetle, which has already destroyed tens of millions of acres of U.S. forests. One species, the mountain pine beetle, has already killed 70,000 square miles of trees — area the size of Washington state. As winters become milder, weather becomes drier and higher elevations become warmer, bark beetles are able to thrive and extend their ranges northward. An increase in some species of bark beetle can actually increase the risk of forest fires in areas affected by the beetle — the study notes an outbreak of the mountain pine bark beetle, which attacks and kills live trees, created a “perfect storm” in 2006 in Washington, where affected lodgepole pines burned “with exceptionally high intensity.”
David Peterson, a U.S. Forest Service biologist who co-authored the report, told the Denver Post that the destruction the bark beetles have inflicted upon western forests in recent years has been unprecedented:
“We’re getting into extreme events that seem to be having more and more effects across broader landscapes.”