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Global climate change and its resulting impacts are the focus of much scientific study. Faith Ann Heinsch, PhD, a physical scientist at the USDA Forest Service, was the featured speaker at today’s opening session of the NFPA’s Backyards & Beyond conference in Salt Lake City, where she reviewed the science of climate change and projected impacts on wildfires.
Does climate change cause wildland fires? The simple answer, for now, said Dr. Heinsch, is “no”. The typical causes of wildfire are the ones we’re familiar with: arson, accidents, lightning, downed power lines, etc. A better question, she said, is in what ways is climate change likely to affect wildland fire.
The greatest challenge in the coming decades, said Dr. Heinsch, will be the extremes. “We’re expecting to see hotter temperatures and drier years, and we expect that these hot, dry conditions will result in more fires, an increase in fire intensity, and fire severity,” she said.
With more frequent and severe wildland fires, how do communities prepare for and adapt to this shifting landscape?