Scientists Predict more Wildfires in the United States by 2050

Brush fire - BSN

(Best Syndication News) - Scientists have created a climate model to determine whether there will be an increased amount of wildfires across the United States in the coming years. The climate model calculates the expected number of fires through 2050 using NASA satellite data along with climate models to determine the drier conditions nationwide.

Information was presented today by Doug Morton, from the NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Md., at the annual meeting of the American Geophysical Union in San Francisco.

The findings were based on current trends in wildfires and predicted greenhouse gas emissions in the years to come. Morton explained that the model suggests an increased fire risk nationwide by 2050.

Morton and his colleagues’ climate model will be presented in a report for the Fifth Assessment Report of the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. The report assesses dryness, which would suggest increased wildfires.

The scientists used both the low and high amounts of greenhouse gas emissions to test different scenarios. Even with the low greenhouse gas emissions, there would be more fire seasons that last longer, along with more intense fires. These scenarios were seen across all regions of the United States within the next 30-50 years. By 2050, the fire activity seen in 2012 would probably happen two to four times each decade. Currently, the 2012 fire activity would be seen once per decade.

Chris Williams of Clark University in Worcester, Mass. suggests that carbon dioxide emissions created from wildfires in the western United States have more than doubled since the 1980’s. The land burnt from wildfires has increased significantly over the last 25 years.

Through August 2012, around 6.17 million acres burned throughout the United States, according to fire emissions observed by the Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer instruments on NASA's Aqua and Terra satellites. In 2011, around 7.9 million acres burned in the US.

"With the climate change forecast for the region, this trend likely will continue as the western U.S. gets warmer and drier on average," Williams said. "If this comes to pass, we can anticipate increased fire severity and an even greater area burned annually, causing a further rise in the release of carbon dioxide."

By: Julie Marcus
Science and Technology Writer

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