A new study finds that humans are now the main cause of forest fires, surpassing lightning and other sources
Experts blame humans for the “major change” in the cause of forest fires, as it is revealed that fires started by people instead of lightning or natural causes are becoming the “new norm”
- CU Boulder scientists analyzed fire data in the US UU. Between 1984 and 2016
- They discovered that the vast majority of forest fires are now caused by humans
- The team combined satellite images with 1.8 million government documents.
- Fires caused by humans are difficult to predict because they are not linked to the seasons.
A new study of forest fires in the United States between 1984 and 2016 found that human-made fires have become more common than any other type.
The team, led by the CU Boulder Earth Lab, hopes that the change will make it difficult to predict future fires by decoupling them from weather patterns.
It could also lead to serious destruction of the environment, as regions not accustomed to regular seasonal fires try to deal with damage, often without adequate resources.
New research by CU Boulder has found that humans are now the number one source of forest fires in the US. UU., Overcoming lightning and other natural sources
In the past, the strongest fires were caused by natural ignition types, such as lightning or El Niño winds, which also tend to be seasonal and easier to predict.
Fires caused by humans or anthropogens tend to be less hot and cover less territory. However, they are also more frequent and more difficult to predict because they are not directly linked to the stations, something they say has become “the new normal.”
“The change to more fires caused by humans causes a decrease in the intensity and size of the fire, but that is not necessarily a good thing,” said lead researcher Megan Cattau. Eurekalert.
“It has focused on extreme fires, but any deviation from historical fire patterns, from what that land evolved, can cause problems.”
The team analyzed fire data in the US. UU. Between 1984 and 2016, breaking down the country into 3,300 grid pieces taken from satellite images, each measuring 31 miles by 31 miles.
Fires caused by humans are more difficult to predict because they are not directly related to seasonal weather patterns, making it more difficult to prepare for them.
While fires caused by humans tend to be smaller and less hot than fires caused by lightning, they are also more frequent and may occur in unexpected regions that may not have the appropriate resources to fight fires, which worsens the damage of what they should be
They collated the grid information with data from more than 1.8 million individual government records, along with the information collected by the Fire Occurrence Database of the US Forest Service’s forest program analysis. UU.
To try to explain the change, the team points to climate change and construction.
The increase in annual temperatures has left many areas drier and covered with more combustible fuel sources, such as grass, bushes and dead trees.
An explanation offered by the researchers is the continuous residential and commercial development in the USA. UU., Which is exposing more and more territory to potentially dangerous human activities, such as fireworks, smoking, camping and more
“We can’t even call it a fire season anymore, it’s almost all year,” says lead researcher Megan Cattau.
At the same time, humans have continued to build in new areas for residential and commercial developments, exposing new areas to potentially dangerous human activities, such as fireworks or smoking.
“As our world sees further development, we can also expect to see greater human ignitions,” Cattau said. “This can affect the safety of people, especially those of vulnerable populations.”
“And this change is also causing fires in places where there was no fire before, which can damage ecosystems.”
Looking ahead, researchers say that regular fires caused by humans are likely to be increasingly frequent.
“We can’t even call it a fire season anymore, it’s almost all year,” Cattau said.
WHAT CAUSES FIRE?
85% of forest fires in the US UU. They are caused by humans
Lightning strikes are the next most common cause of forest fires.
There were 58,083 forest fires in the US. UU. In 2018, compared to 71,499 in 2017
California has more than 2 million homes exposed to the risk of forest fires, almost three times more than any other state
Texas has the highest number of forest fires per year, with 10,541 in 2018
California had the largest amount of space burned by forest fires in 2018, with more than 1.8 million acres affected