Climate change and forest fires in Ontario

  • Street R
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The intrinsic link between fire and climate suggests that changes in climate induced by increasing concentrations of "greenhouse gases" will have a significant impact on forest fire severity. This paper examines this impact in terms of probable changes in the length and severity index of the Canadian Fire Weather Index. Monthly historical data of average temperatures, precipitation totals and fire severity indicies for stations within each of the administrative regions of Ontario are used to define statistical (second degree orthogonal polynomial technique) relationships for each region. These relationships are then used, along with the results of two climate change scenarios, to define the fire severity indices for each region and each month under the modeled climatic conditions. The general trend of the analysis indicates that in all regions of Ontario the forest fire season under the proposed climatic conditions will be longer, starting during the month of April and continuing into the month of October. It was also evident that the fire seasons will generally be more severe than those under the current climatic normals. In addition to a general increase in overall severity, the analysis suggests that there will also be a shift in the timing of the most severe portion of the fire season. Traditionally the months of May, June and July have been the most severe, however, under the modelled climate of the two change scenarios, the most severe portions of the fire season will shift to later in the season, typically July, August and September. There was also an indication that in some regions, particularly northwestern Ontario, a bimodal fire season is probable. In these situations, peak periods were identified during late spring followed by a second period during late summer.

Author-supplied keywords

  • Canadian Fire Weather Index
  • FWI
  • climate change
  • fire prediction
  • fire season
  • fire severity index
  • forest
  • model
  • ontario
  • wildfire

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  • R B Street

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