Trends in global wildfire potential in a changing climate
The trend in global wildfire potential under the climate change due to the greenhouse effect is investigated. Fire potential is measured by the Keetch-Byram Drought Index (KBDI), which is calculated using the observed maximum temperature and precipitation and projected changes at the end of this century (2070–2100) by general circulation models (GCMs) for present and future climate conditions, respectively. It is shown that future wildfire potential increases significantly in the United States, South America, central Asia, southern Europe, southern Africa, and Australia. Fire potential moves up by one level in these regions, from currently low to future moderate potential or from moderate to high potential. Relative changes are the largest and smallest in southern Europe and Australia, respectively. The period with the KBDI greater than 400 (a simple definition for fire season in this study) becomes a few months longer. The increased fire potential is mainly caused by warming in the U.S., South America, and Australia and by the combination of warming and drying in the other regions. Sensitivity analysis shows that future fire potential depends on many factors such as climate model and emission scenario used for climate change projection. The results suggest dramatic increases in wildfire potential that will require increased future resources and management efforts for disaster prevention and recovery.