Climate change is fueling the risk of more “mega years of fire” in Australia and the country faces a longer fire season that extends into autumn and winter, according to a new study from CSIRO.
Scientists have published a historical analysis of fire activity in 324,000 km2 of forest, mostly along Australia’s heavily populated east coast.
They say climate change is the “overriding factor behind fire activity” and that it is to blame for a significant increase in the intensity and frequency of forest fires over the past 30 years. years.
Their report notes that three of the four âmega years of firesâ – in which Australia has lost over a million hectares of forest – have occurred since the year 2000. This land mass is about four times UK size.
CSIRO scientist Pep Canadell said the frequency of mega forest fires is expected to continue.
At the same time, the length of the fire season is increasing and extending into fall and winter – the months that fire departments typically use to conduct prescribed burns to reduce the risk of fire. dangerous fires.
“Everything that happened after 2000, the whole system has really changed quite significantly in terms of big fires. It’s very different from what we had seen in previous decades,” said Dr Canadell .
âThere were rest areas and clear areas and times when there was little fire activity. This has all changed completely in the last 15 years where basically the fire hazard has spread all over the place. throughout the 12 months.
“We had a three-fold increase in the fall and a five-fold increase in the winter.”
The average time between major fires affecting the same areas is also decreasing.
In places like the Mountain Ash and Alpine Ash forests of southeast Australia, fires are starting to return too frequently to allow regeneration, increasing the prospect of ecosystem collapse.
“Many native animals will be threatened by the dramatically reduced return fire interval,” said Garry Cook, another scientist at CSIRO.
Then comes the issue of staffing fire departments to deal with a much longer fire risk period.
“There will be no off season,” he warns.
âWe are going to face an increasing difficulty in managing this, and it will make it more and more difficult to live and work in the area of ââthese forests.
“It means capitals next to forestsâ¦ those Sydney scenes bathed in orange light from the smoke, that will increasingly be our future.”
He said the only long-term solution would be to manage the production of greenhouse gases.
Australia’s average temperature has risen by 1.4 Â° C since 1910, and scientists have long warned that the country’s fire danger will rise as the temperature of the planet rises.
The research was published in the journal Nature Communications.
Associated Australian Press