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Changes In Wildfire Risk Due to Climate Change


Aired 4/20/09

Researchers at UC Berkeley say climate change will bring about major shifts in worldwide fire patterns, and those changes are coming fast. KPBS Environment Reporter Ed Joyce says the findings show fire risk increasing in Southern California.

Led by researchers at the University of California, Berkeley, the analysis shows that some fire-prone areas like San Diego County will have an increased risk of wildfires in coming years.

Study author Max Moritz of UC Berkeley says it's the first attempt to statistically model where and why fire occurs across the entire planet.

He says the two essential variables needed for fires are sufficient vegetation to burn and conditions hot and dry enough for fires to start.

When the researchers used those variables and future climate projections to look at how these factors might change over time, they found that much of the planet will incur changes in fire activity.

The preliminary results show hotspots of fire invasion forming in parts of the western United States and the Tibetan plateau, while regions including northeast China and central Africa may become less fire-prone over the next 30 years.

Researchers say the study is a first step towards creating a comprehensive picture of how climate change will alter fire risk arond the world if drastic cuts in greenhouse gas emissions are not achieved.

Ed Joyce, KPBS News.


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