AGW Observer

Observations of anthropogenic global warming

Papers on Australia wildfires and climate change

Posted by Ari Jokimäki on January 9, 2020

This is a list of papers on Australia wildfires and climate change. The list is not complete, and will most likely be updated in future in order to make it more thorough and more representative.

UPDATE (January 10, 2020): Cai et al. (2009) added.

Climate change effects on the frequency, seasonality and interannual variability of suitable prescribed burning weather conditions in south-eastern Australia – Clarke et al. (2019)
“Despite the importance of prescribed burning in contemporary fire management, there is little understanding of how climate change will influence the weather conditions under which it is deployed. We provide quantitative estimates of potential changes in the number of prescribed burning days in coastal NSW in south-eastern Australia, a fire-prone area dominated by dry sclerophyll forests. Burning days are calculated from an objectively designed regional climate model ensemble using three definitions of suitable weather conditions based on: a literature search (Literature), actual weather observed during recorded prescribed burns (Observed) and operational guidelines (Operational). Contrary to some claims, evidence for a decrease in prescribed burning days under projected future climates is weak. We found a complex pattern of changes, with the potential for substantial and widespread increases in the current burning seasons of autumn (March-May) and spring (August-October). Projected changes were particularly uncertain in northern NSW, spanning substantial increases and decreases during autumn. The magnitude of projected changes in the frequency of burning days was highly sensitive to which definition of suitable weather conditions was used, with a relatively small change for the Operational definition (+0.3 to +1.9 days per year across the study area) and larger ranges for the Observed (+0.2 to +7.9 days) and Literature (+1.7 to +6.2 days) definitions. Interannual variability in the number of burning days is projected to increase slightly under projected climate change. Our study highlights the need for a better understanding of the weather conditions required for safe and effective prescribed burning. Our analysis provides practitioners with quantitative information to assess their exposure to a range of potential changes in the frequency, seasonality and variability of prescribed burning weather conditions.”
Hamish Clarke, Bruce Tran, Matthias M. Boer, Owen Price, Belinda Kenny, Ross Bradstock (2019). Agricultural and Forest Meteorology 271(15):148-157. doi:https://doi.org/10.1016/j.agrformet.2019.03.005.

Future changes in extreme weather and pyroconvection risk factors for Australian wildfires – Dowdy et al. (2019)
“Extreme wildfires have recently caused disastrous impacts in Australia and other regions of the world, including events with strong convective processes in their plumes (i.e., strong pyroconvection). Dangerous wildfire events such as these could potentially be influenced by anthropogenic climate change, however, there are large knowledge gaps on how these events might change in the future. The McArthur Forest Fire Danger Index (FFDI) is used to represent near-surface weather conditions and the Continuous Haines index (CH) is used here to represent lower to mid-tropospheric vertical atmospheric stability and humidity measures relevant to dangerous wildfires and pyroconvective processes. Projected changes in extreme measures of CH and FFDI are examined using a multi-method approach, including an ensemble of global climate models together with two ensembles of regional climate models. The projections show a clear trend towards more dangerous near-surface fire weather conditions for Australia based on the FFDI, as well as increased pyroconvection risk factors for some regions of southern Australia based on the CH. These results have implications for fields such as disaster risk reduction, climate adaptation, ecology, policy and planning, noting that improved knowledge on how climate change can influence extreme wildfires can help reduce future impacts of these events.”
Andrew J. Dowdy, Hua Ye, Acacia Pepler, Marcus Thatcher, Stacey L. Osbrough, Jason P. Evans, Giovanni Di Virgilio & Nicholas McCarthy (2019). Scientific Reports 9:10073. doi:10.1038/s41598-019-46362-x. [FULL TEXT]

Exploring the future change space for fire weather in southeast Australia – Clarke & Evans (2019)
“High-resolution projections of climate change impacts on fire weather conditions in southeast Australia out to 2080 are presented. Fire weather is represented by the McArthur Forest Fire Danger Index (FFDI), calculated from an objectively designed regional climate model ensemble. Changes in annual cumulative FFDI vary widely, from − 337 (− 21%) to + 657 (+ 24%) in coastal areas and − 237 (− 12%) to + 1143 (+ 26%) in inland areas. A similar spread is projected in extreme FFDI values. In coastal regions, the number of prescribed burning days is projected to change from − 11 to + 10 in autumn and − 10 to + 3 in spring. Across the ensemble, the most significant increases in fire weather and decreases in prescribed burn windows are projected to take place in spring. Partial bias correction of FFDI leads to similar projections but with a greater spread, particularly in extreme values. The partially bias-corrected FFDI performs similarly to uncorrected FFDI compared to the observed annual cumulative FFDI (ensemble root mean square error spans 540 to 1583 for uncorrected output and 695 to 1398 for corrected) but is generally worse for FFDI values above 50. This emphasizes the need to consider inter-variable relationships when bias-correcting for complex phenomena such as fire weather. There is considerable uncertainty in the future trajectory of fire weather in southeast Australia, including the potential for less prescribed burning days and substantially greater fire danger in spring. Selecting climate models on the basis of multiple criteria can lead to more informative projections and allow an explicit exploration of uncertainty.”
Clarke, H. & Evans, J.P. Theor Appl Climatol (2019) 136: 513. https://doi.org/10.1007/s00704-018-2507-4. [FULL TEXT]

On Determining the Impact of Increasing Atmospheric CO2 on the Record Fire Weather in Eastern Australia in February 2017 – Hope et al. (2019)
“February 2017 saw a broad region with record fire weather across central-eastern Australia. A hybrid attribution technique using modified observations and a seasonal forecast framework did not give a clear signal as to the influence of increasing atmospheric CO2 on the fire weather.”
Pandora Hope, Mitchell T. Black, Eun-Pa Lim, Andrew Dowdy, Guomin Wang, Acacia S. Pepler, and Robert J. B. Fawcett (2019). Bulletin of the American Meteorological Society, vol. 100, issue 1, pp. S111-S117. doi:10.1175/BAMS-D-18-0135.1. [FULL TEXT]

Climatological Variability of Fire Weather in Australia – Dowdy (2018)
“Long-term variations in fire weather conditions are examined throughout Australia from gridded daily data from 1950 to 2016. The McArthur forest fire danger index is used to represent fire weather conditions throughout this 67-yr period, calculated on the basis of a gridded analysis of observations over this time period. This is a complementary approach to previous studies (e.g., those based primarily on model output, reanalysis, or individual station locations), providing a spatially continuous and long-term observations-based dataset to expand on previous research and produce climatological guidance information for planning agencies. Long-term changes in fire weather conditions are apparent in many regions. In particular, there is a clear trend toward more dangerous conditions during spring and summer in southern Australia, including increased frequency and magnitude of extremes, as well as indicating an earlier start to the fire season. Changes in fire weather conditions are attributable at least in part to anthropogenic climate change, including in relation to increasing temperatures. The influence of El Niño–Southern Oscillation (ENSO) on fire weather conditions is found to be broadly consistent with previous studies (indicating more severe fire weather in general for El Niño conditions than for La Niña conditions), but it is demonstrated that this relationship is highly variable (depending on season and region) and that there is considerable potential in almost all regions of Australia for long-range prediction of fire weather (e.g., multiweek and seasonal forecasting). It is intended that improved understanding of the climatological variability of fire weather conditions will help lead to better preparedness for risks associated with dangerous wildfires in Australia.”
Dowdy, A.J., 2018: Climatological Variability of Fire Weather in Australia. J. Appl. Meteor. Climatol., 57, 221–234, https://doi.org/10.1175/JAMC-D-17-0167.1. [FULL TEXT]

Pyroconvection Risk in Australia: Climatological Changes in Atmospheric Stability and Surface Fire Weather Conditions – Dowdy & Pepler (2018)
“Extreme wildfires with strong convective processes in their plumes have recently led to disastrous impacts on various regions of the world. The Continuous Haines index (CH) is used in Australia to represent vertical atmospheric stability and humidity measures relating to pyroconvective processes. CH climatology is examined here using reanalysis data from 1979 to 2016, revealing large spatial and seasonal variations throughout Australia. Various measures of severity are investigated, including regionally specific thresholds. CH is combined with near‐surface fire weather conditions, as a type of compound event, and is examined in relation to environmental conditions associated with pyroconvection. Significant long‐term changes in CH are found for some regions and seasons, with these changes corresponding to changes in near‐surface conditions in some cases. In particular, an increased risk of pyroconvection is identified for southeast Australia during spring and summer, due to decreased vertical atmospheric stability and humidity combined with more severe near‐surface conditions.”
Dowdy, A. J., & Pepler, A. ( 2018). Pyroconvection risk in Australia: Climatological changes in atmospheric stability and surface fire weather conditions. Geophysical Research Letters, 45, 2005– 2013. https://doi.org/10.1002/2017GL076654. [FULL TEXT]

Fire frequency analysis for different climatic stations in Victoria, Australia – Khastagir (2018)
“Frequent occurrence of fire events will have severe impact on Victoria’s water supply catchments. Hence, it is important to perform fire frequency analysis to obtain fire frequency curves (FFC) on fire intensity using Forest Fire Danger Index (FFDI) at different parts of Victoria. FFDI is a measure of fire initiation, spreading speed and containment difficulty. FFC will guide water harvesting by providing information with regard to future fire events and the subsequent impact on catchment yield. Five probability distributions, namely normal, Log Pearson Type III (LPIII), gamma, log-normal and Weibull distributions were used for the development of FFCs at ten selected meteorological stations spread all over Victoria. LPIII distribution was identified as the best fit distribution for Victoria and subsequently applied for an additional 30 more stations to show spatial variability for the entire Victoria.”
Anirban Khastagir (2018). Natural Hazards volume 93, pages 787–802. doi:https://doi.org/10.1007/s11069-018-3324-x.

Fanning the Blame: Media Accountability, Climate and Crisis on the Australian “Fire Continent” – Anderson et al. (2018)
“This paper raises questions of media coverage of “compounded crises” related to extreme weather disaster, in the context of urgent calls to address the implications of a changing climate. Through media analysis, it examines the ways debate over bushfire protection policy was framed and made culturally meaningful, thereby politically consequential, in the wake of the worst bushfires in modern Australian history, Black Saturday (2009). The fires, in which 173 people died, led to a Royal Commission and fierce debate over the use of prescribed burning to reduce bushfire hazard. Longitudinal analysis of local, state and national mainstream media coverage (2009–2016) reveals blame games that targeted environmentalists and the government, which near-silenced meaningful discussion of the complexity of fire science, impacts of climate change on weather conditions, and calls for adaptation. By exploring the media’s constitutive role in crisis response, the paper highlights the legacy and potency of ideological conflict that shapes the media-policy nexus in Australia.”
Deb Anderson, Philip Chubb & Monika Djerf-Pierre (2018) Fanning the Blame: Media Accountability, Climate and Crisis on the Australian “Fire Continent”, Environmental Communication, 12:7, 928-941, DOI: 10.1080/17524032.2018.1424008. [FULL TEXT]

Big data integration shows Australian bush-fire frequency is increasing significantly – Dutta et al. (2016)
“Increasing Australian bush-fire frequencies over the last decade has indicated a major climatic change in coming future. Understanding such climatic change for Australian bush-fire is limited and there is an urgent need of scientific research, which is capable enough to contribute to Australian society. Frequency of bush-fire carries information on spatial, temporal and climatic aspects of bush-fire events and provides contextual information to model various climate data for accurately predicting future bush-fire hot spots. In this study, we develop an ensemble method based on a two-layered machine learning model to establish relationship between fire incidence and climatic data. In a 336 week data trial, we demonstrate that the model provides highly accurate bush-fire incidence hot-spot estimation (91% global accuracy) from the weekly climatic surfaces. Our analysis also indicates that Australian weekly bush-fire frequencies increased by 40% over the last 5 years, particularly during summer months, implicating a serious climatic shift.”
Ritaban Dutta, Aruneema Das and Jagannath Aryal (2016). Royal Society Open Science 3(2). doi:https://doi.org/10.1098/rsos.150241. [FULL TEXT]

Natural hazards in Australia: extreme bushfire – Sharples et al. (2016)
“Bushfires are one of the most frequent natural hazards experienced in Australia. Fires play an important role in shaping the landscape and its ecological dynamics, but may also have devastating effects that cause human injuries and fatalities, as well as broad-scale environmental damage. While there has been considerable effort to quantify changes in the occurrence of bushfire in Australia, a comprehensive assessment of the most extreme bushfire cases, which exact the greatest economic and environmental impacts, is lacking. In this paper we reflect upon recently developed understanding of bushfire dynamics to consider (i) historical changes in the occurrence of extreme bushfires, and (ii) the potential for increasing frequency in the future under climate change projections. The science of extreme bushfires is still a developing area, thus our conclusions about emerging patterns in their occurrence should be considered tentative. Nonetheless, historical information on noteworthy bushfire events suggests an increased occurrence in recent decades. Based on our best current understanding of how extreme bushfires develop, there is strong potential for them to increase in frequency in the future. As such there is a pressing need for a greater understanding of these powerful and often destructive phenomena.”
Sharples, J.J., Cary, G.J., Fox-Hughes, P. et al. Climatic Change (2016) 139: 85. https://doi.org/10.1007/s10584-016-1811-1. [FULL TEXT]

ENSO controls interannual fire activity in southeast Australia – Mariani et al. (2016)
“El Niño–Southern Oscillation (ENSO) is the main mode controlling the variability in the ocean‐atmosphere system in the South Pacific. While the ENSO influence on rainfall regimes in the South Pacific is well documented, its role in driving spatiotemporal trends in fire activity in this region has not been rigorously investigated. This is particularly the case for the highly flammable and densely populated southeast Australian sector, where ENSO is a major control over climatic variability. Here we conduct the first region‐wide analysis of how ENSO controls fire activity in southeast Australia. We identify a significant relationship between ENSO and both fire frequency and area burnt. Critically, wavelet analyses reveal that despite substantial temporal variability in the ENSO system, ENSO exerts a persistent and significant influence on southeast Australian fire activity. Our analysis has direct application for developing robust predictive capacity for the increasingly important efforts at fire management.”
Mariani, M., Fletcher, M.‐S., Holz, A., and Nyman, P. ( 2016), ENSO controls interannual fire activity in southeast Australia, Geophys. Res. Lett., 43, 10,891– 10,900, doi:10.1002/2016GL070572. [FULL TEXT]

People, El Niño southern oscillation and fire in Australia: fire regimes and climate controls in hummock grasslands – Bird et al. (2016)
“While evidence mounts that indigenous burning has a significant role in shaping pyrodiversity, the processes explaining its variation across local and external biophysical systems remain limited. This is especially the case with studies of climate–fire interactions, which only recognize an effect of humans on the fire regime when they act independently of climate. In this paper, we test the hypothesis that an anthropogenic fire regime (fire incidence, size and extent) does not covary with climate. In the lightning regime, positive El Niño southern oscillation (ENSO) values increase lightning fire incidence, whereas La Niña (and associated increases in prior rainfall) increase fire size. ENSO has the opposite effect in the Martu regime, decreasing ignitions in El Niño conditions without affecting fire size. Anthropogenic ignition rates covary positively with high antecedent rainfall, whereas fire size varies only with high temperatures and unpredictable winds, which may reduce control over fire spread. However, total area burned is similarly predicted by antecedent rainfall in both regimes, but is driven by increases in fire size in the lightning regime, and fire number in the anthropogenic regime. We conclude that anthropogenic regimes covary with climatic variation, but detecting the human–climate–fire interaction requires multiple measures of both fire regime and climate.”
Bliege Bird Rebecca, Bird Douglas W. and Codding Brian F. People, El Niño southern oscillation and fire in Australia: fire regimes and climate controls in hummock grasslands. Phil. Trans. R. Soc. B. 371(1696). doi:https://doi.org/10.1098/rstb.2015.0343. [FULL TEXT]

Responses of resilience traits to gradients of temperature, rainfall and fire frequency in fire-prone, Australian forests: potential consequences of climate change – Hammill et al. (2016)
“The composition of plant communities may be driven by responses of key plant resilience traits (resprouting R+, non-resprouting R−, persistent P+ and transient P− seedbanks) to either resource competition or disturbance regimes. We explored responses of overall species richness and the richness of herbs and shrubs within the three most common functional types (i.e. facultative resprouters R+P+, obligate resprouters R+P−, obligate seeders R−P+) to orthogonal combinations of temperature (MAT), rainfall (MAP) and fire frequency (FF) in Dry Sclerophyll Forest in the Sydney basin (south-eastern Australia). R+ and P+ species were predominant (>72 % of total species). Overall richness was a significant positive function of MAT, MAP and FF. Positive relationships between species richness and MAP, MAT and FF occurred across all trait and functional type groups, with MAP being the most influential and FF the least. Responses of proportions of species within trait- and functional-type groups were complex. Proportion of R+ species was negatively related to MAT and MAP, but species-rich herb and shrub R+P+ proportions were positively and negatively related to MAT, respectively. The herb R+P+ proportion was negatively related to FF. The results were inconsistent with the disturbance frequency and resource competition models of resilience variation. Rises in MAT under climate change have the potential not only to increase overall species plus richness across all trait groups but also to diminish shrubs relative to herbs in the key R+P+ functional types. Such a scenario is highly uncertain given the variability in future MAP projections for the region.”
Hammill, K., Penman, T. & Bradstock, R. Plant Ecol (2016) 217: 725. https://doi.org/10.1007/s11258-016-0578-9.

Divergent responses of fire to recent warming and drying across south‐eastern Australia – Bradstock et al. (2014)
“The response of fire to climate change may vary across fuel types characteristic of differing vegetation types (i.e. litter vs. grass). Models of fire under climatic change capture these differing potential responses to varying degrees. Across south‐eastern Australia, an elevation in the severity of weather conditions conducive to fire has been measured in recent decades. We examined trends in area burned (1975–2009) to determine if a corresponding increase in fire had occurred across the diverse range of ecosystems found in this part of the continent. We predicted that an increase in fire, due to climatic warming and drying, was more likely to have occurred in moist, temperate forests near the coast than in arid and semiarid woodlands of the interior, due to inherent contrasts in the respective dominant fuel types (woody litter vs. herbaceous fuels). Significant warming (i.e. increased temperature and number of hot days) and drying (i.e. negative precipitation anomaly, number of days with low humidity) occurred across most of the 32 Bioregions examined. The results were mostly consistent with predictions, with an increase in area burned in seven of eight forest Bioregions, whereas area burned either declined (two) or did not change significantly (nine) in drier woodland Bioregions. In 12 woodland Bioregions, data were insufficient for analysis of temporal trends in fire. Increases in fire attributable mostly to warming or drying were confined to three Bioregions. In the remainder, such increases were mostly unrelated to warming or drying trends and therefore may be due to other climate effects not explored (e.g. lightning ignitions) or possible anthropogenic influences. Projections of future fire must therefore not only account for responses of different fuel systems to climatic change but also the wider range of ecological and human effects on interactions between fire and vegetation.”
Bradstock, R., Penman, T., Boer, M., Price, O. and Clarke, H. (2014), Divergent responses of fire to recent warming and drying across south‐eastern Australia. Glob Change Biol, 20: 1412-1428. doi:10.1111/gcb.12449.

Changes in Australian fire weather between 1973 and 2010 – Clarke et al. (2013)
“A data set of observed fire weather in Australia from 1973–2010 is analysed for trends using the McArthur Forest Fire Danger Index (FFDI). Annual cumulative FFDI, which integrates daily fire weather across the year, increased significantly at 16 of 38 stations. Annual 90th percentile FFDI increased significantly at 24 stations over the same period. None of the stations examined recorded a significant decrease in FFDI. There is an overall bias in the number of significant increases towards the southeast of the continent, while the largest trends occur in the interior of the continent and the smallest occur near the coast. The largest increases in seasonal FFDI occurred during spring and autumn, although with different spatial patterns, while summer recorded the fewest significant trends. These trends suggest increased fire weather conditions at many locations across Australia, due to both increased magnitude of FFDI and a lengthened fire season. Although these trends are consistent with projected impacts of climate change on FFDI, this study cannot separate the influence of climate change, if any, with that of natural variability.”
Clarke, H., Lucas, C. and Smith, P. (2013), Changes in Australian fire weather between 1973 and 2010. Int. J. Climatol., 33: 931-944. doi:10.1002/joc.3480. [FULL TEXT]

Fire and carbon dynamics under climate change in south-eastern Australia: insights from FullCAM and FIRESCAPE modelling – King et al. (2011)
“This study used simulation modelling to investigate fire and carbon dynamics for projected warmer and drier climates in the south-eastern Australian high country. A carbon accounting model FullCAM and the landscape fire regime simulator FIRESCAPE were combined and used to simulate several fire management options under three climate scenarios – the recent climate (1975–2005); a moderate climate projected for 2070 (B1); and a more extreme climate projected for 2070 (A1FI). For warmer and drier climates, model simulations predicted (i) an increase in fire incidence; (ii) larger areas burned; (iii) higher mean fire intensities; (iv) shorter fire cycle lengths; (v) a greater proportion of fires burning earlier in the fire season; (vi) a reduction in carbon stores; (vii) a reduction in carbon sequestration rates; and (viii) an increase in the proportion of stored carbon emitted to the atmosphere. Prescribed burning at historical or twice historical levels had no effect on fire or carbon dynamics. In contrast, increasing the initial attack success (a surrogate for suppression) partially offset the adverse effects of warmer and drier climates on fire activity, but not on carbon dynamics. For the south-eastern Australian high country, simulations indicated that fire and carbon dynamics are sensitive to climate change, with simulated fire management only being able to partially offset the adverse effects of warmer and drier climate.”
King Karen J., de Ligt Robert M., Cary Geoffrey J. (2011) Fire and carbon dynamics under climate change in south-eastern Australia: insights from FullCAM and FIRESCAPE modelling. International Journal of Wildland Fire 20, 563-577. doi:https://doi.org/10.1071/WF09073.

Assessing the impact of climate change on extreme fire weather events over southeastern Australia – Hasson et al. (2009)
“Extreme fire weather events in southeastern Australia are frequently associated with strong cold fronts moving through the area. A recent study has shown that the 850 hPa temperature and the magnitude of its gradient over a small region of southeastern Australia provide a simple means of discriminating the most extreme cold frontal events during the last 40 yr from reanalysis data sets. Applying this technique to 10 general circulation models (GCMs) from the Coupled Model Intercomparison Project and calibrating the temperature gradient and temperature climatology of each model’s simulation of the climate of the 20th century against the reanalysis climates allows estimates of likely changes in frequency of this type of extreme cold front in the middle and end of the 21st century. Applying this analysis to the output of 10 GCM simulations of the 21st century, using low and high greenhouse gas emissions scenarios, suggests that the frequency of such events will increase from around 1 event every 2 yr during the late 20th century to around 1 event per year in the middle of the 21st century and 1 to 2 events per year by the end of the 21st century; however, there is a great degree of variation between models. In addition to a greater overall increase under the high emissions scenario, the rate at which the increase occurs amplifies during the second half of the century, whereas under the low emissions scenario the number of extreme cases stabilizes, although still at a higher rate than that experienced in the late 20th century.”
Hasson AEA, Mills GA, Timbal B, Walsh K (2009) Assessing the impact of climate change on extreme fire weather events over southeastern Australia. Clim Res 39:159-172. https://doi.org/10.3354/cr00817. [FULL TEXT]

Positive Indian Ocean Dipole events precondition southeast Australia bushfires – Cai et al. (2009)
“The devastating “Black Saturday” bushfire inferno in the southeast Australian state of Victoria in early February 2009 and the “Ash Wednesday” bushfires in February 1983 were both preceded by a positive Indian Ocean Dipole (pIOD) event. Is there a systematic pIOD linkage beyond these two natural disasters? We show that out of 21 significant bushfires seasons since 1950, 11 were preceded by a pIOD. During Victoria’s wet season, particularly spring, a pIOD contributes to lower rainfall and higher temperatures exacerbating the dry conditions and increasing the fuel load leading into summer. Consequently, pIODs are effective in preconditioning Victoria for bushfires, more so than El Niño events, as seen in the impact on soil moisture on interannual time scales and in multi‐decadal changes since the 1950s. Given that the recent increase in pIOD occurrences is consistent with what is expected from global warming, an increased bushfire risk in the future is likely across southeast Australia.”
Cai, W., Cowan, T., and Raupach, M. ( 2009), Positive Indian Ocean Dipole events precondition southeast Australia bushfires, Geophys. Res. Lett., 36, L19710, doi:10.1029/2009GL039902. [FULL TEXT]

The impact of climate change on the risk of forest and grassland fires in Australia – Pitman et al. (2007)
“We explore the impact of future climate change on the risk of forest and grassland fires over Australia in January using a high resolution regional climate model, driven at the boundaries by data from a transitory coupled climate model. Two future emission scenarios (relatively high and relatively low) are used for 2050 and 2100 and four realizations for each time period and each emission scenario are run. Results show a consistent increase in regional-scale fire risk over Australia driven principally by warming and reductions in relative humidity in all simulations, under all emission scenarios and at all time periods. We calculate the probability density function for the fire risk for a single point in New South Wales and show that the probability of extreme fire risk increases by around 25% compared to the present day in 2050 under both relatively low and relatively high emissions, and that this increases by a further 20% under the relatively low emission scenario by 2100. The increase in the probability of extreme fire risk increases dramatically under the high emission scenario by 2100. Our results are broadly in-line with earlier analyses despite our use of a significantly different methodology and we therefore conclude that the likelihood of a significant increase in fire risk over Australia resulting from climate change is very high. While there is already substantial investment in fire-related management in Australia, our results indicate that this investment is likely to have to increase to maintain the present fire-related losses in Australia.”
Pitman, A.J., Narisma, G.T. & McAneney, J. The impact of climate change on the risk of forest and grassland fires in Australia. Climatic Change 84, 383–401 (2007) doi:10.1007/s10584-007-9243-6. [FULL TEXT]

The Sensitivity of Australian Fire Danger to Climate Change – Williams et al. (2001)
“Global climate change, such as that due to the proposed enhanced greenhouse effect, is likely to have a significant effect on biosphere-atmosphere interactions, including bushfire regimes. This study quantifies the possible impact of climate change on fire regimes by estimating changes in fire weather and the McArthur Forest Fire Danger Index (FDI), an index that is used throughout Australia to estimate fire danger. The CSIRO 9-level general circulation model(CSIRO9 GCM)is used to simulate daily and seasonal fire danger for the present Australian climate and for a doubled-CO2 climate. The impact assessment includes validation of the GCMs daily control simulation and the derivation of ‘correction factors’ which improve the accuracy of the fire danger simulation. In summary, the general impact of doubled-CO2 is to increase fire danger at all sites by increasing the number of days of very high and extreme fire danger.Seasonal fire danger responds most to the large CO2-induced changes in maximum temperature.”
Williams, A.A.J., Karoly, D.J. & Tapper, N. Climatic Change (2001) 49: 171. https://doi.org/10.1023/A:1010706116176. [FULL TEXT]

Fire Regime Sensitivity to Global Climate Change: An Australian Perspective – Cary & Banks (2000)
“The Australian eucalypt forests are highly adapted to fire, and their component species possess well-developed response mechanisms that ensure post-fire recovery of these ecosystems. Fire regimes, which may alter forest floristics and structure, have changed since pre-European times because of management practices and may again change because of a changing climate. Two complimentary approaches are used to determine spatial and temporal patterns of fire regimes, a) dendrochronology to determine pre- and post-European fire histories for specific sites and b) fire-climate-landscape modelling to predict spatial patterns in fire regimes for topographically complex landscapes. This paper brings together these two approaches which have been applied independently to the same forest in the Southern Tablelands of New South Wales. The model predictions of spatial patterns in fire regimes under the present climate provide reasonable results when compared with observed site fire histories. Also, model results indicate that around half of the landscape is likely to experience a significant increase in fire frequency as a result of climate change. These findings, which have implications for fire-prone forest environments world-wide, are discussed in relation to the effects that anthropogenic ignition have had on the fire frequency in the study area over the last century.”
Cary G.J., Banks J.C.G. (2000) Fire Regime Sensitivity to Global Climate Change: An Australian Perspective. In: Innes J.L., Beniston M., Verstraete M.M. (eds) Biomass Burning and Its Inter-Relationships with the Climate System. Advances in Global Change Research, vol 3. Springer, Dordrecht.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

 
%d bloggers like this: