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Wildfires past, present, and future

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Today's wildfires are far outside the historic range of variability, with lasting consequences for our forests and open lands. Understanding the three fundamental forces governing fire behavior - fuel, topography, and weather - remains key to predicting how fires may behave in coming decades.

Veröffentlicht in: Wissenschaft
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Wildfires past, present, and future

  1. 1. Wildfires past, present, and future Donald Falk Associate Professor School of Natural Resources University of Arizona 12 April 2017 UNDERSTANDING WILDLAND FIRES: How new research can help fire-management efforts to protect lives and property
  2. 2. UNDERSTANDING WILDLAND FIRES Wildfires have always been part of American forests
  3. 3. UNDERSTANDING WILDLAND FIRES The forests of today reflect the legacy of centuries of wildfire, most of it benign and sustaining
  4. 4. UNDERSTANDING WILDLAND FIRES We know from hundreds of studies using tree rings, charcoal, and other methods that low-severity wildfires were common throughout the US
  5. 5. UNDERSTANDING WILDLAND FIRES But today’s wildfires are far outside the range of variability • More than 2000 square miles burned in Texas, Oklahoma, and Kansas in 2017 • Priceless old forests are being lost and replaced by less valuable ecosystems • Because of warming climate, many forests are not recovering • Combined with drought and insects, more than 100 million dead trees in the Sierra Nevada
  6. 6. UNDERSTANDING WILDLAND FIRES Aug, 2011, Las Conchas Fire, NM. Photo Craig Allen, USGS ..with lasting consequences for our forests and open lands.
  7. 7. UNDERSTANDING WILDLAND FIRES 1980s Images courtesy Kay Beeley, NPS, and Craig Allen, USGS
  8. 8. UNDERSTANDING WILDLAND FIRES 2000s Images courtesy Kay Beeley, NPS, and Craig Allen, USGS
  9. 9. UNDERSTANDING WILDLAND FIRES 2010-2013 2010s 1980s 1940s 1930s 1910s 1900s 1960s 2000s 1990s 1970s 1950s 1920s Images courtesy Kay Beeley, NPS, and Craig Allen, USGS
  10. 10. UNDERSTANDING WILDLAND FIRES Warm Edge Cave Creek Nuttall Willow Kinishba Aspen Bullock RyanBridger Lone Perkins Redington Rattlesnake Piety Dude Horseshoe 2 0 50 100 150 200 250 1990 1991 1992 1993 1994 1995 1996 1997 1998 1999 2000 2001 2002 2003 2004 2005 2006 2007 2008 2009 2010 2011 Rodeo/Chediski Wallow 450 500 550 Largest Arizona Wildfires, 1990-2012 222K 250K 469K 538K 119K ThousandAcres Graphic courtesy A Youberg, AZGS; data SW Climate Assessment and US Forest Service
  11. 11. UNDERSTANDING WILDLAND FIRES Three fundamental forces govern fire behavior Understanding these factors is key to predicting how fires may behave in coming decades
  12. 12. UNDERSTANDING WILDLAND FIRES We examined how a warming climate will affect area burned Many parts of the western US may see 8-9x area burned annually by mid-century
  13. 13. UNDERSTANDING WILDLAND FIRES Potential effects of wildfires on Ft. Huachuca (US Army) and Sierra Vista, AZ Biggest threats to the Base and city are not direct fire impacts, but post-fire flooding and debris flows on burned landscapes
  14. 14. UNDERSTANDING WILDLAND FIRES So the evidence shows:  Wildland fire is a natural process in American forests and globally.  Warming climate is leading to longer fire seasons, more severe fires, and greater area burned We can learn to live with fire if we continue the research to understand it and policies to manage it.