The typical wildfire season has been prolonged by three and half months higher than it was a few decades ago, and the sum of big yearly fires in the West has tripled, scorching twice as many acres. Soil moisture, temperature, and the existence of bushes, trees, and other potential fuel all contribute to wildfire danger.
All of these variables have substantial direct or indirect links to climate fluctuation and change. Climate change has accelerated the drying of organic matter in forests (the stuff that ignites and spreads wildfires) and more than quadrupled the number of big fires in the world. We may anticipate more and worse wildfires in the coming years if we don’t interrupt the warming cycle.
The vast majority of climate experts firmly believe that, while fires are a natural component of some ecosystems, the climate problem makes them more frequent and intense. Dozens of studies have connected greater wildfires throughout the world to global warming caused by the burning of fossil fuels.
The year 2020 has been one of the warmest on record. Snowmelt earlier in the year, along with droughts and higher temperatures, results in drier soil and vegetation ripe for fire.
Human activities, such as discarding lit cigarettes and lighting fires for camp, are mostly to blame for starting the fires, hotter weather renders woods drier and more prone to fire. Rising temperatures remove more moisture from the ground, drying up the soil and making plants more explosive, a crucial signal of climate change.
Wildfires and climate change form a vicious circle: the carbon emitted by flames contributes to global warming, further drying up the soil and plants, making them more prone to catching fire. Simultaneously, drier woods for an extended duration are a result of winter snowpacks that are melting roughly a month sooner.
Meanwhile, altering weather patterns might cause rain to be directed away from wildfire-prone areas, a phenomenon observed in California and connected to man-made climate change. As the drought and heat persist, along with growing greenhouse gas emissions, we may expect more wildfires in the coming years, significantly as fire seasons lengthen.
Forest fires aren’t always a negative thing. In truth, fire is a natural and valuable component of many forest ecosystems, and we must allow inevitable fires to burn for the ecosystems to remain healthy.
Undergrowth accumulates on the forest floor over time, and when a fire burns through it, it makes room for larger, more mature trees that are more fire-resistant. However, the uncontrolled rise in wildfires is forcing entire forests to burn out of control. This is harmful to the environment and humans.
Wildfires endanger human life, property, and infrastructure; recent wildfires have already substantially impacted human health in Southeast Asia. Forest fires immediately damage plants and animals while also causing habitat degradation. The primary issue, though, is that the size of these fires has grown to the point that they are now substantial contributors to greenhouse gas emissions.
After all, trees absorb and store carbon from the atmosphere, so the more trees that burn down, the more difficult it will be in the future to address climate change. And this is harmful, according to Funk. It generates a feedback cycle in which the flames produce more emissions, which leads to increased global warming, which causes more fires.
Fires are not the adversary; they are the result of an underlying process. Thus we must treat the cause rather than its symptoms.
Communities, builders, homeowners, and forest managers may reduce the risk and severity of wildfires by doing the following:
Using smart zoning laws to discourage growth (mainly residential) near fire-prone woods.
Adding space between structures and adjacent trees and bushes, as well as clearing space between neighboring residences.
Increasing the amount of money spent on firefighting and prevention.
Removing fuels, such as dead trees, from forests that are at risk of wildfire.
Creating recovery strategies before a fire occurs and putting them into action as soon as a fire happens to avoid erosion, restrict floods, and minimize habitat destruction.
Wildfires will become a rising hazard as the earth continues to warm fast, sending smoke over international boundaries and significantly increasing greenhouse gas emissions to the atmosphere. As a result, the fires are more than simply local and national issues; they also pose worldwide concerns.
Every effort must be made to limit the rate of global warming, which is rapidly fueling wildfire patterns. By climate change reversal, we can break the cycle and move toward a more sustainable future. We may continue to spend ever-increasing amounts of money to solve deadly fires and other weather catastrophes exacerbated by climate change, or we can work together to limit and finally stop the greenhouse gas emissions that are warming our world.