Navigation Links
Massive California fires consistent with climate change

CORVALLIS, Ore. The catastrophic fires that are sweeping Southern California are consistent with what climate change models have been predicting for years, experts say, and they may be just a prelude to many more such events in the future as vegetation grows heavier than usual and then ignites during prolonged drought periods.

This is exactly what weve been projecting to happen, both in short-term fire forecasts for this year and the longer term patterns that can be linked to global climate change, said Ronald Neilson, a professor at Oregon State University and bioclimatologist with the USDA Forest Service.

You cant look at one event such as this and say with certainty that it was caused by a changing climate, said Neilson, who was also a contributor to publications of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, a co-recipient earlier this month of the 2007 Nobel Peace Prize.

But things just like this are consistent with what the latest modeling shows, Neilson said, and may be another piece of evidence that climate change is a reality, one with serious effects.

The latest models, Neilson said, suggest that parts of the United States may be experiencing longer-term precipitation patterns less year-to-year variability, but rather several wet years in a row followed by several that are drier than normal.

As the planet warms, more water is getting evaporated from the oceans and all that water has to come down somewhere as precipitation, said Neilson. That can lead, at times, to heavier vegetation loads popping up and creation of a tremendous fuel load. But the warmth and other climatic forces are also going to create periodic droughts. If you get an ignition source during these periods, the fires can just become explosive.

The problems can be compounded, Neilson said, by El Nio or La Nina events. A La Nia episode thats currently under way is probably amplifying the Southern California drought, he said. But when rains return for a period of years, the burned vegetation may inevitably re-grow to very dense levels.

In the future, catastrophic fires such as those going on now in California may simply be a normal part of the landscape, said Neilson.

Fire forecast models developed by Neilsons research group at OSU and the Forest Service rely on several global climate models. When combined, they accurately predicted both the Southern California fires that are happening and the drought that has recently hit parts of the Southeast, including Georgia and Florida, causing crippling water shortages.

In studies released five years ago, Neilson and other OSU researchers predicted that the American West could become both warmer and wetter in the coming century, conditions that would lead to repeated, catastrophic fires larger than any in recent history.

At that time, the scientists suggested that periodic increases in precipitation, in combination with higher temperatures and rising carbon dioxide levels, would spur vegetation growth and add even further to existing fuel loads caused by decades of fire suppression.

Droughts or heat waves, the researchers said in 2002, would then lead to levels of wildfire larger than most observed since European settlement. The projections were based on various general circulation models that showed both global warming and precipitation increases during the 21st century.


Contact: Ronald Neilson
Oregon State University

Related biology news :

1. New plant DNA libraries provides massive boost to worlds plant researchers
2. Underlying cause of massive pinyon pine die-off revealed
3. Massive duplication of genes may solve Darwins abominable mystery about flowering plants
4. PNAS study reveals why organs fail following massive trauma
5. Massive coral death attributed to earthquake
6. Massive herds of animals found to still exist in Southern Sudan
7. Scientists discover unique microbe in Californias largest lake
8. New Species of Coral Discovered Off Southern California
9. California computer scientists double volume of data in NIH biotech repository
10. Seal rookeries could provide a reliable food source for endangered California condors, study finds
11. UCR environmental scientists propose chemical solution to cleaning Californias Salton Sea
Post Your Comments:
(Date:4/28/2016)... First quarter 2016:   , Revenues amounted ... quarter of 2015 The gross margin was 49% (27) ... the operating margin was 40% (-13) Earnings per share ... operations was SEK 249.9 M (21.2) , Outlook   ... M. The operating margin for 2016 is estimated to ...
(Date:4/26/2016)... -- Research and Markets has announced the ...  report to their offering.  , ,     (Logo: ... forecast the global multimodal biometrics market to grow ... 2016-2020.  Multimodal biometrics is being implemented ... healthcare, BFSI, transportation, automotive, and government for controlling ...
(Date:4/15/2016)... 15, 2016  A new partnership announced today ... underwriting decisions in a fraction of the time ... and high-value life insurance policies to consumers without ... With Force Diagnostics, rapid testing (A1C, Cotinine and ... (blood pressure, weight, pulse, BMI, and activity data) ...
Breaking Biology News(10 mins):
(Date:6/23/2016)... ... 23, 2016 , ... Charm Sciences, Inc. is pleased to ... AOAC Research Institute approval 061601. , “This is another AOAC-RI approval of the ... Vice President of Regulatory and Industrial Affairs. “The Peel Plate methods perform comparably ...
(Date:6/23/2016)... , June 23, 2016   EpiBiome , ... secured $1 million in debt financing from Silicon Valley ... up automation and to advance its drug development efforts, ... new facility. "SVB has been an incredible ... the services a traditional bank would provide," said Dr. ...
(Date:6/23/2016)... ... 23, 2016 , ... In a new case report published today in STEM ... who developed lymphedema after being treated for breast cancer benefitted from an injection of ... dealing with this debilitating, frequent side effect of cancer treatment. , Lymphedema ...
(Date:6/23/2016)... , June 23, 2016 ... Hematology Review, 2016;12(1):22-8 ... , the peer-reviewed journal from touchONCOLOGY, Andrew ... escalating cost of cancer care is placing an ... result of expensive biologic therapies. With the patents ...
Breaking Biology Technology: