Extreme forest fires have doubled in 20 years worldwide | Forest fires in Canada

Extreme forest fires have doubled in 20 years worldwide | Forest fires in Canada
Extreme forest fires have doubled in 20 years worldwide | Forest fires in Canada

Using satellite data, researchers studied nearly 3,000 wildfires with enormous “radiative power” – the amount of energy emitted by radiation – between 2003 and 2023, and found that their frequency had been multiplied by 2.2 during this period.

It is the temperate coniferous forests, particularly in the western United States, and the boreal forests, which cover Alaska, northern Canada and Russia, which are the most affected, with a frequency of such fires multiplied by 11 and 7 respectively.

Considering only the 20 most violent fires each year, their cumulative radiative power has also more than doubled, at a rate that “appears to be accelerating”, according to the study published in the journal Nature Ecology & Evolution.

I expected an increase, but this rate of increase alarmed me.

The effects of climate change are no longer a thing of the future and we are now seeing signs of a drying and warming atmospherehe declared to theFrance Media AgencyAFPadvocating better preventive management of forests.

The six most extreme years in wildfire intensity and frequency have occurred since 2017, the study found. Confirming the trend, it is the year 2023, the most recent, which experienced the most extreme wildfire intensities over the period studied.

Vicious circle

These extreme fires are fueled by increasingly severe drought, a consequence of global warming.

Current global warming is ten times faster than that observed 7,000 years ago.

Photo: Radio-Canada

During its growth, the forest cover absorbs CO2, but it returns en masse to the atmosphere when the vegetation burns, worsening global warming caused by greenhouse gas emissions.

This creates a feedback effectMr. Cunningham said.

Furthermore, With these fires, large areas are crossed by the plume of smoke, which has significant health effects and leads to many more premature deaths than the flames themselvesunderlined the researcher.

His study cites in particular work according to which air pollution due to megafires in 2015 in Indonesia led to an excess mortality of 100,000 people.

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