Motive Project

Article alert: Forest fire occurrence and climate change in Canada

by: Ulla Vänttinen

Wotton, B.M.; Nock, C.A.; Flannigan, M.D. Forest fire occurrence and climate change in Canada. International journal of wildland fire. 2010. 19(3) p. 253-271


The structure and function of the boreal forest are significantly influenced by forest fires. The ignition and growth of fires depend quite strongly on weather; thus, climate change can be expected to have a considerable impact on forest fire activity and hence the structure of the boreal forest. Forest fire occurrence is an extremely important element of fire activity as it defines the load on suppression resources a fire management agency will face. We used two general circulation models (GCMs) to develop projections of future fire occurrence across Canada. While fire numbers are projected to increase across all forested regions studied, the relative increase in number of fires varies regionally. Overall across Canada, our results from the Canadian Climate Centre GCM scenarios suggest an increase in fire occurrence of 25% by 2030 and 75% by the end of the 21st century. Results projected from fire climate scenarios derived from the Hadley Centre GCM suggest fire occurrence will increase by 140% by the end of this century. These general increases in fire occurrence across Canada agree with other regional and national studies of the impacts of climate change on fire activity. Thus, in the absence of large changes to current climatic trends, significant fire regime induced changes in the boreal forest ecosystem are likely.

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