‘The results also suggest the frequency of forest mega fires are likely to continue under future projected climate change.’
According to research from Australia’s National Science Agency, CSIRO, climate change has driven a ‘significant increase in Australia’s forest fire activity over the last three decades.’
The research, which has been published in Nature Communications, is said to be the first of its kind combining analysis of previous forest fire sites with eight drivers of fire activity. Along with climate, these drivers include fuel accumulation and prescribed burning. The research also includes 32 years worth of satellite data and 90 years of ground-based datasets from climate and weather observations.
Dr Pep Canadell, Chief Research Scientist CSIRO commented: ‘While all eight drivers of fire-activity played varying roles in influencing forest fires, climate was the overwhelming factor driving fire activity.’
The researchers point out that over the last 90 years, three of the four mega fires years occurred after 2000. A mega fire year is defined as more than 1 million hectares of forest being burned over one year. In addition, the researchers say that Australia’s average temperature has increased by 1.4 degrees Celsius since 1910, with ‘a rapid increase in extreme heat events, while rainfall has declined in the southern and eastern regions of the continent.’ It was also noted that while fire activity around the world is decreasing, the extent of forest fires in Australia is increasing.
Dr Canadell added: ‘The results also suggest the frequency of forest mega fires are likely to continue under future projected climate change.’
The researchers added that understanding the trends in Australia’s fires will help inform emergency management, health, infrastructure, natural resources management and conservation.