U.S.: Wildfires set new destructive records in Colorado and New Mexico due to climate change

Black Forest Wildfire in ColoradoBlack Forest Wildfire in ColoradoHigh temperatures, high winds and low humidity are contributing to extreme fire weather across the US southwest. In Colorado the Black Forest fire burning north east of Colorado Springs has become the most destructive fire on record for the state destroying at least 379 homes and killing two people. Over the border the Whitewater Baldy Complex fire in the Gila National Forest has become the largest wildfire in New Mexico's recorded history. For several years scientists have indicated that Climate change is a primary cause driving the increase in the length of the fire season, the frequency and intensity of wildfires.

Reports from Colorado confirm that the Black Forest fire has so far burned 15,700 acres; 38,000 people and 13,000 homes evacuated; with the fire only 5% contained. 379 homes have been destroyed and a further 9 damaged. The damage exceeds the record destruction last year from the Waldo Canyon Fire which destroyed nearly 350 homes and also killed two people. Another Colorado wildfire near Royal Gorge has burnt 3,100 acres, destrying 20 structures and is just 20% contained.

Black Forest Wilfire in Colorado

Black Forest Wilfire in Colorado

Black Forest firefighting mission by DVIDshub / Flickr Creative Commons Licensed. Caption: An aircraft releases a fire-retardant solution to help stop the spreading of fires at Black Forest, Colo., June 12, 2013. (U.S. Army photo by Sgt. Jonathan C. Thibault/Released)

U.S.: Forest Service Chief warns of more extreme wild fires associated with climate change

Wild fires are getting bigger and burning with greater intensity with an extended fire season, due in large part to climate change, according to testimony this week of Thomas Tidwell, Head of the US Forest Service to the US Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee.

Australia: Bushfires strike with extreme heatwave blanketing most of continent

Image courtesy Australian Bureau of MeteorologyImage courtesy Australian Bureau of MeteorologyA heatwave covering 70 per cent of Australia that started on January 3 has sparked catastrophic bushfires. Tasmania has so far been the most devastated by fire with more than 100 houses and businesses razed, the Tasman peninsula cutoff, without power, and thousands evacuated by boat to Hobart. The Temperature soared in Hobart setting new records for highest daily minimum overnight temperature of 23.4C and a new maximum temperature of 41.3C.

Update Jan 8: Climate Change: Records tumble in extreme heatwave as temperature scale adjusted upwards while Prime Minister Julia Gillard links intensity of bushfires with climate change as NSW survives catastrophic fire conditions. Other states are also experiencing bushfires, but have so far brought the fires mostly under control. The heatwave is expected to last over a week with elevated temperatures particularly in inland areas. It is very unusual that a heat wave covers such a large area of the continent at one time, according to Karl Braganza, manager of climate monitoring at the Australian Bureau of Meteorology.

Australia's weather has switched to hot and dry after one of the wettest two year periods in Australia's history influenced by an extremely strong La Nina event.

Related: Youtube animation of forecast heatwave temperatures | Scientists outline human health limits of heat stress with Climate Change (May 2010) | Flooding rains now burning plains - Bushfire risk and climate change (Oct 2011) | Logging of Victorian mountain ash forests increases bushfire risk (Oct 2011) | Intact native Forests mitigate bushfire in a warming climate (Nov 2011) | CSIRO - Climate change impacts on fire weather

extreme heatwave blanketing most of Australia January 2013

extreme heatwave blanketing most of Australia January 2013

Image from Australian Bureau of Meteorology - Forecast temperature 5pm Tuesday 8 January 2013

Changes in extent and intensity of wildfire linked to Climate change

A new international scientific study lead by a researcher from the University of Utah links extreme fire weather to increasing temperatures and drought driven by climate change.

The study, lead by geography professor Mitchell Power, found that the extent and intensity of wildfires on a continental and global basis is connected to changing temperatures and climate. The study dismissed the theory that population decline was the primary cause for reduced wildfire during the cooler periods in the last 2000 years arguing "climate change was likely more important than indigenous population collapse in driving this decline."

Drought and high temperatures continue to soar across the central plains and midwest of the United States creating the hottest July on record and the hottest month ever recorded according to NOAA.

Intact native Forests mitigate bushfire in a warming climate

As Australia's climate warms up we are facing increased bush fire risk. Old growth forests trap moisture and provide an important bulwark against bushfires, while previously logged forest regrowth with trees of the same maturity will tend to burn at a much higher intensity.

Climate change, Water Security and drought in the Mediterranean region

A new study by NOAA - the US National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration - has highlighted that climate change is a major contributor to more frequent Mediterranean droughts. According to the study in the last 20 years, 10 of the driest 12 winters have taken place in the lands surrounding the Mediterranean Sea. Water security, food security, and increasing wildfire frequency and intensity has the potential to destabilize the region producing conflicts over use of increasingly scarce water resources.

"The magnitude and frequency of the drying that has occurred is too great to be explained by natural variability alone,” said Martin Hoerling, Ph.D. of NOAA’s Earth System Research Laboratory in Boulder, Colorado, lead author of a paper published online in the Journal of Climate this month. “This is not encouraging news for a region that already experiences water stress, because it implies natural variability alone is unlikely to return the region’s climate to normal.”

The US 'normal climate' just got hotter

For the USA the 'normal climate' just got warmer. Every decade the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) updates a range of climate measures averaged over the previous 30 years. These measures are called the climate normals.

Syndicate content