Tropical regions, despite holding an abundance of fuel, would see their dry season decline, lessening their chances for severe burns.
Coming to terms with a hotter future
Given those trends, human beings will need to adjust their approach to fire management, said Moritz.
Fire has always been an integral part of the ecology of the western United States, a force of destruction but also of renewal. Periodic wildfires clear old growth, curb beetle kill and even aid in the propagation of certain plant species whose seeds can be released only under extreme heat.
Humans, on the other hand, have generally opted to obstruct the cycle rather than coexist with it. And that has had some unintended consequences.
Fire suppression throughout much of the 20th century allowed fuel to accumulate, leading to a sharp uptick in severe, extensive burns in the 1980s and 1990s.
Since then, forest managers have begun to adopt "controlled burn" regimes, in which fires are intentionally set in areas judged to need them.
If Moritz's projections are correct, however, efforts to control seasonal fires -- through both suppression and pre-emption -- will need to be scaled up in tandem with increased fire prevalence.
Those efforts are progressing, if slowly. The U.S. Forest Service announced yesterday that it has contracted for seven new "next generation" air tankers for wildfire suppression, part of the service's ongoing efforts to replace its current, aging fleet.
Reprinted from Climatewire with permission from Environment & Energy Publishing, LLC. www.eenews.net, 202-628-6500