Wildfires and Climate

smoke_column_2.jpg Somebody’s been paying attention to global warming and wildfires:
…the Association of Fire Ecology said climate change will limit humans’ ability to manage wildland fire.

“Under future drought and high heat scenarios,” the declaration reads, “fires may become larger more quickly and be more difficult to manage. Fire suppression costs may continue to increase, with decreasing effectiveness under extreme fire weather and fuel conditions. Extreme fire events are likely to occur more frequently.”

Fire ecology group: Climate change will limit wildfire management By Perry Backus, the Missoulian, 31 August 2006

Here’s the risk management part:
We acknowledge that there are uncertainties in projecting local impacts of climate change, however, without taking action to manage fire-dependent ecosystems today and in the absence of thoughtful preparation and planning for the future, wildland fires are likely to become increasingly difficult to manage.

The San Diego Declaration on Climate Change and Fire Management (final version)

It’s when you don’t know exactly what’s going to happen that risk management is most useful. The final document has a number of relatively specific recommendations, including:
Make use of both short-term fire weather products AND season-to-season and year-to-year climate and fire outlooks that are increasingly available from “predictive services” groups in federal agencies, and particularly the sub-regional variations in anticipated fire hazards that enable strategic allocation of fire fighting and fire use resources nationally.
Hm, quantification, prediction, and cross-region comparisons. The kinds of things you always wish you’d been doing before the problem got serious. The declaration even recommends introducing connections between climate change and ecosystem disturbance into academic curricula, getting the public involved, and pursuing further research, all at once.

There’s not much in there specifically about southeastern swamp and pine fires; the declaration mostly mentions western U.S. and tropical examples; but at least someone is paying attention to the general problem.


PS: Owed to Ralph Maughan.