Satellite Data Reveals Impact Of Global Warming On Fires

Since around 1880, the entire world has seen its average temperature move up by 1.9 degree Fahrenheit. The last 5 years were responsible for the most 5 warm years ever to occur in the history of the planet. Since the 80s, wildfire seasons have become longer over 25% of the globe’s vegetated surface. In states like California, fires have become a regular occurrence as well. 2018 saw the state’s worst wildfire crisis take place, right after devastating wildfires in 2017. In 2019, over 2.5M acres have already been lost in Alaska to wildfires as a result of rising temperatures. The same has also been seen in traditionally cold locations such as Siberia, where massive fires have broken out.

Doug Morton of BSL at NASA’s GSFC stated that the agency’s capabilities of tracking wildfires over the past 20 years using sat data has led to several large-scale trends being discovered. Increased level of fire activity is consistent with warming climates in locations like Canada, western US and other Northern Hemisphere locations where fuels happen to be abundant. Wherever drying and warming climate increased risks of wildfires, a steady increase in rates of burning has also been observed, he said.

Low humidity and high temperatures happen to be the 2 essential factors contributing to increased fire activity and risks, which affect fire behavior right from ignition to spread. They prep up the stage even before fires break out, stated Jim Randerson of California University, who studies wildfires using satellite and field data.

Fires can affect the climate and humans as well. For people, apart from the loss of property and life, smoke can also cause serious health hazards when soot particles get into their lungs. Exposure in the long term can also cause heart and respiratory problems to see a significant spike.

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