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Forest Fires and Climate Change in Canada

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Title: Forest Fires and Climate Change in Canada


1
Forest Fires and Climate Change in Canada
2
Canadian Fire Statistics
  • Incomplete prior to 1970
  • Currently - average of 9000 fires a year burn 2.6
    million ha
  • Area burned is highly episodic
  • 0.4 to 7.6 million ha
  • Lightning fires
  • 35 of total fires
  • represent 85 of area burned
  • Fire size
  • 3 of fires are gt200 ha
  • represent 97 of area burned

3
Large Fires in Alaska and Canada 1980-1999
Fire polygons kindly provided by Canadian Fire
Agencies (Provinces, Territories and Parks
Canada) and the state of Alaska
4
Forest Fires 4 Key Factors
  • Fuel - loading, moisture, structure etc.
  • Ignition - human and lightning
  • Weather - temperature, precipitation atmospheric
    moisture and wind upper atmospheric conditions
    (blocking ridges)
  • Humans - land use, fragmentation, fire management
    etc.

5
Fire and Carbon
700 Pg carbon stored in the boreal forest 30-35
of the global terrestrial biosphere
  • Fire plays a major role in carbon dynamics it
    can determine the magnitude of net biome
    productivity
  • 1) combustion direct loss
  • 2) decomposition of fire-killed vegetation
  • 3) stand renewal young successional stands have
    potential to be greater sinks than mature
    stagnant forests

6
Climate Change Projections
  • GCMs project 1.4 5.80 C increase in global mean
    temperature by 2100
  • Greatest increases will be at high latitudes,
    over land and winter/spring
  • Projected increases in extreme weather(e.g., heat
    waves, drought, floods, wind storms and ice
    storms)
  • Observed increases across west-central Canada and
    Siberia over past 40 years

Observations above summer temperature changes
below 2080-2100
7
Projected temperature changes vary considerably
from year to year
8
A smoking gun?
  • Area burned in Canada is strongly related to
    human-caused warming
  • Impacts of climate change are here already
  • A warmer future means more fire in Canada

9
GCMs Seasonal Severity Rating
10
Area Burned Projections
Hadley 3xCO2
Canadian 3xCO2
Projections of area burned based on weather/fire
danger relationships suggest a 75-120 increase
in area burned by the end of this century
according to the Canadian and Hadley models
respectively
11
Fire Occurrence Prediction
  • People-caused and lightning-caused fire
    occurrence
  • Models for Ontario suggest 25-100 increase in
    fire starts by 2090

12
Fire and Weather Feedbacks potentially positive
Fossil Fuel emissions increase greenhouse gases
Cause warmer conditions
Weather becomes more conducive to fire more fire
Carbon released from more fire enhances
greenhouse gases further
13
Summary
  • Weather/Climate and fire are strongly linked
  • Fire activity is likely to increase significantly
    with climate change although the response will
    have large temporal and spatial variability
  • Integrated approaches will be required to adapt
    to climate-change altered fire activity in terms
    of social, economic and ecological policies and
    practices

14
Collaborators/Partners
  • Universities Arizona, Australian National
    University, Manitoba, Montana, Toronto and
    UQAM/UQAT
  • BC Ministry of Forests, Environment Canada,
    NRCan, Ontario MNR and US Forest Service,
  • GCTE IGBP
  • Action Plan 2000, Climate Change Action Fund,NCE
    SFMN, National Center for Ecological Analysis
    and Synthesis, PERD

15
Proxy data also indicate that the recent warming
is likely unprecedented in at least the past
millennium
Source IPCC(2001)
16
Global surface temperatures are rising
17
Fire Ecology
  • Boreal forests survive and even thrive in
    semi-regular high intensity fires
  • Removes competition
  • Prepares seedbed
  • Survival strategies - Cone serotiny, vegetative
    reproduction and bark thickness
  • Role of fire suppression Smokey syndrome

18
Climate change
19
Fire Issues
  • An average of 500 million spent by fire
    management agencies in Canada a year on direct
    fire fighting costs
  • Health and safety of Canadians
  • Property and timber losses due to fire
  • Balancing the positive and negative aspects of
    fire

20
Fire and Climate Change Research Purpose
  • Understand relationships between weather/climate
    and fire
  • Model future fire activity fire weather, area
    burned, fire intensity/severity, fire season
    length etc.
  • Adaptation strategies for an altered fire regime
    due to climate change

21
Outline
  • Fire background
  • Climate change
  • Impacts of climate change on fire activity
  • How do we cope?

22
Fire and Climate Change Research where are we?
  • Future fire weather fire danger
  • Fire season length
  • Preliminary studies
  • Future area burned
  • Changes in fire intensity
  • Fire occurrence prediction
  • Level of protection studies
  • Adaptation plans

23
Length of fire season
CCC 3xCO2
Hadley 3xCO2
  • Fire season length increases by 10-50 days over
    much of the boreal according to the Canadian and
    Hadley GCMs

24
Potential Changes in Fire Intensity
RCM - Ratio 3xCO2/1xCO2 Central Saskatchewan
This will influence the type of fire (more
crowning), reduce suppression effectiveness, and
may lead to larger sized fires.
25
What will the future be like?
  • Longer fire seasons
  • More area burned
  • More intense fires
  • More ignitions human and lightning-caused

26
Fire and Climate Change Research where we are
going
  • Better estimates of future area burned and GHG
    emissions
  • Fire Occurrence prediction lightning and
    human-caused
  • Interactions with other disturbances
  • Understanding the effects of atmospheric and
    oceanic circulations on fire activity
  • Understanding processes interactions using
    historical data

27
So What!
  • Health and safety of Canadians through improved
    fire weather and fire behaviour systems
  • Options/strategic plans for landscape management
  • Adaptation options for fire management agencies
    with respect to climate change altered fire
    regimes
  • Fire season forecasts
  • Input into decisions for Kyoto are our forests
    carbon sinks or sources?

28
We are living in a flammable forest
  • Some Recent Incidents
  • Kelowna/Barriere, BC (2003)
  • Hillcrest/Blairmore, AB (2003)
  • Turtle Lake, SK (2002)
  • Chisholm, AB (2001)
  • Burwash Landing, YK (1999)
  • La Ronge, SK (1999)
  • Beardmore, ON (1999)
  • Shelburne County, NS (1999)
  • Badger, NF (1999)
  • Salmon Arm, BC (1998)
  • Swan Hills, AB (1998)
  • Granum, AB (1997)
  • Timmins, ON (1997)
  • Ft. Norman, NT (1995)
  • NS Manitoba (1989)

29
How do we cope with more fire?
  • Greater risk
  • 1) Increased fire activity 2)More Canadians live
    and work in the wildland urban interface
  • More evacuations
  • Smoke issues Health and transportation

30
Adaptation Strategies
  • Fire exclusion not an option in many regions
  • Landscape fuels management
  • Fuel conversion
  • Fuel reduction
  • Fuel isolation
  • FireSmart landscapes
  • Strategically located firebreaks
  • Education, prevention
  • Emergency planning
  • Level of protection studies

31
Sustainable Forest Management
Future burn rate is lower than past burn ratea
real substitution is expectable.
  • Future area burned may be less than historical
    area burned in some regions
  • Natural Disturbance based Forest management could
    be used to recreate the forest age structure of
    fire-controlled pre-industrial landscapes

Yield constraints
32
Fire and Kyoto
  • Fires contribute to greenhouse gases in the
    atmosphere
  • Currently our forests are a small sink of carbon
    or even a source of carbon due primarily to
    disturbances
  • If Canada includes forest management(Art. 3.4
    managed forests) then we will have to account for
    disturbances
  • Fire management protects values at risk not
    carbon

33
Landscape Management - A Balancing Act
  • How much fire does the forest need?
  • New systems and models are needed to balance
    multiple objectives far a landscape with climate
    change altered disturbances( fire, insects, wind
    etc.)
  • Biodiversity (including Habitat)
  • Harvesting, exploration etc.
  • Tourism Recreation
  • Carbon?

34
ICFME Fire Video Clip
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