Oct 27, 2015

Medieval warming initiated exceptionally large wildfire outbreaks in the Rocky Mountains

W. John Calder, Dusty Parker, Cody J. Stopka, Gonzalo Jiménez-Moreno, Bryan N. Shuman
Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences
  • States that climate change may increase both the frequency of wildfires and the amount of area burned in the western United States and other forested regions
  • States that studies of past climate changes and their effects on wildfires can provide constraints on potential future wildfire risks
  • Reconstructs the history of wildfire across a representative subalpine forest landscape in northern Colorado over the past two millennia
  • Finds that warming of about 0.5°C approximately 1,000 years ago increased the percentage of study sites burned per century by about 260% relative to the past 400 or so years
  • Concludes that the large increase in the number of sites burned by fires highlights the risk that large portions of individual landscapes may burn as climates continue to warm today
  • Findings support the link between increased air and land surface temperature and increased wildfire risk