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Exeter IGBP Oct. 27-28 2005Fire and Climate Change Forest Fires and Climate Change in Canada.

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Presentation on theme: "Exeter IGBP Oct. 27-28 2005Fire and Climate Change Forest Fires and Climate Change in Canada."— Presentation transcript:

1 Exeter IGBP Oct Fire and Climate Change Forest Fires and Climate Change in Canada

2 Exeter IGBP Oct Fire and Climate Change 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 >200 ha –represent 97% of area burned

3 Exeter IGBP Oct Fire and Climate Change Large Fires in Alaska and Canada Fire polygons kindly provided by Canadian Fire Agencies (Provinces, Territories and Parks Canada) and the state of Alaska

4 Exeter IGBP Oct Fire and Climate Change 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 Exeter IGBP Oct Fire and Climate Change Fire and Carbon 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 ~700 Pg carbon stored in the boreal forest ~30-35 % of the global terrestrial biosphere

6 Exeter IGBP Oct Fire and Climate Change Climate Change Projections GCMs project 1.4 – 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

7 Exeter IGBP Oct Fire and Climate Change Projected temperature changes vary considerably from year to year

8 Exeter IGBP Oct Fire and Climate Change 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 Exeter IGBP Oct Fire and Climate Change GCMs Seasonal Severity Rating

10 Exeter IGBP Oct Fire and Climate Change Area Burned Projections Canadian –3xCO 2 Hadley –3xCO 2 Projections of area burned based on weather/fire danger relationships suggest a % increase in area burned by the end of this century according to the Canadian and Hadley models respectively

11 Exeter IGBP Oct Fire and Climate Change Fire Occurrence Prediction People-caused and lightning-caused fire occurrence Models for Ontario suggest % increase in fire starts by 2090

12 Exeter IGBP Oct Fire and Climate Change Fossil Fuel emissions: increase greenhouse gases Weather becomes more conducive to fire: more fire Carbon released from more fire enhances greenhouse gases further Fire and Weather Feedbacks : potentially positive Cause warmer conditions

13 Exeter IGBP Oct Fire and Climate ChangeSummary Weather/Climate and fire are strongly linked 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 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 Integrated approaches will be required to adapt to climate-change altered fire activity in terms of social, economic and ecological policies and practices

14 Exeter IGBP Oct Fire and Climate Change 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 Exeter IGBP Oct Fire and Climate Change Proxy data also indicate that the recent warming is likely unprecedented in at least the past millennium Source: IPCC(2001)

16 Exeter IGBP Oct Fire and Climate Change Global surface temperatures are rising Relative to average temperature

17 Exeter IGBP Oct Fire and Climate Change 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 Exeter IGBP Oct Fire and Climate Change Climate change –optimistpessimist or

19 Exeter IGBP Oct Fire and Climate Change 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 Exeter IGBP Oct Fire and Climate Change 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 Exeter IGBP Oct Fire and Climate Change Outline Fire background Climate change Impacts of climate change on fire activity How do we cope?

22 Exeter IGBP Oct Fire and Climate Change 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 Exeter IGBP Oct Fire and Climate Change Length of fire season CCC –3xCO 2 Hadley –3xCO 2 Fire season length increases by days over much of the boreal according to the Canadian and Hadley GCMs

24 Exeter IGBP Oct Fire and Climate Change No fuel HFI Ratio 3x/1x CO2 This will influence the type of fire (more crowning), reduce suppression effectiveness, and may lead to larger sized fires. RCM - Ratio 3xCO 2 /1xCO 2 Central Saskatchewan RCM - Ratio 3xCO 2 /1xCO 2 Central Saskatchewan Potential Changes in Fire Intensity

25 Exeter IGBP Oct Fire and Climate Change What will the future be like? Longer fire seasons More area burned More intense fires More ignitions – human and lightning-caused

26 Exeter IGBP Oct Fire and Climate Change 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 Exeter IGBP Oct Fire and Climate Change 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 Exeter IGBP Oct Fire and Climate Change 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) N&S Manitoba (1989)

29 Exeter IGBP Oct Fire and Climate Change 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 Exeter IGBP Oct Fire and Climate Change 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 spruce aspen

31 Exeter IGBP Oct Fire and Climate Change Sustainable Forest Management 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 Future burn rate is lower than past burn rate:a real substitution is expectable. Yield constraints

32 Exeter IGBP Oct Fire and Climate Change 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 Exeter IGBP Oct Fire and Climate Change 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 Exeter IGBP Oct Fire and Climate Change ICFME Fire Video Clip


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