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Research predicts huge forest fires in the woods of United States and Europe due to climate change

Researchers from the universities of Wyoming (United States) and Granada (Spain) prove that a rise in temperature of just 0,5 ºC during the Medieval Climate Anomaly (1000 years ago) caused a rise in naturally-occurring forest fires frequency in the Rocky Mountains woods (USA), which made 83% of the trees burn.

Their work was published in the renowned Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America magazine last October

 

Researchers from the universities of Wyoming (United States) and Granada (Spain) predict that the rise in temperature we are experiencing over the last few decades due to climate change will cause more and heavier naturally-occurring fires in the Rocky Mountains woods (Colorado, United States) and in other areas in that country and Europe.

In an article published last October in the renowned Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America (PNAS) magazine, the researchers prove that a rise in temperature of just 0,5 ºC during the Medieval Climate Anomaly (about 1000 years ago) caused a rise in naturally-occurring forest fires frequency in the Rocky Mountains woods (west of the USA), making 83% of the trees burn.

As Gonzalo Jiménez-Moreno, researcher at the Stratigraphy and Paleontology Department of the University of Granada (UGR) and one of the authors of this paper, explains, “we know that during the Medieval Climate Anomaly we reached temperatures similar to those of the last few decades”.

“This fact indicates that the current observed rise in temperature predicts more and heavier naturally-occurring forest fires in the Rocky Mountains region, which could be extrapolated to other regions of the world, like ours”, the researcher stresses.

The researchers can figure out how fire frequency of a given region varied in the past, thanks to the study of microscopic charcoal particles found in lake sediments.

Charcoal particles in lake sediments

“When a fire occurs, a lot of charcoal is released into the atmosphere in the form of smoke, and this particles fall and settle in sedimentary basins in a couple kilometres radius around the fire focus”, Jiménez-Moreno continues. “Assessing charcoal concentration per cubic centimetre of sediment, we observed that there were periods in which fires were abundant, and other periods in which they were not”.

 

That way, “in this research we’ve been able to confirm that the frequency of naturally-occurring forest fires does indeed go up when temperature rises, something that already happened during the Medieval Climate Anomaly and is also happening right now”.

 

Although the research has been carried out in the Rocky Mountains, the researcher stresses that these results “may be perfectly extrapolated to other regions of the world, such as Europe, given that, for some decades now, we are experiencing a rise in temperature similar to that which caused heavy fires during the Medieval Climate Anomaly”, an extraordinarily hot period between 800 and 1300 B.P. (before present time).

 

Bibliographic references:

Medieval warming initiated exceptionally large wildfire outbreaks in the Rocky Mountains

W. John Caldera, Dusty Parker, Cody J. Stopka , Gonzalo Jiménez-Moreno , and Bryan N. Shuman

 

Contact:

Gonzalo Jiménez-Moreno

Departamento de Estratigrafía y Paleontología. Facultad de Ciencias de la Universidad de Granada

E-mail: gonzaloj@ugr.es

Telephone: (+34) 958 248 727

Mobile phone: (+34) 615 570 961

Personal web site: http://www.ugr.es/~gonzaloj/

 

 

 

 

 

 

Contact:

Gonzalo Jiménez-Moreno

Departamento de Estratigrafía y Paleontología. Facultad de Ciencias de la Universidad de Granada

E-mail: gonzaloj@ugr.es

Telephone: (+34) 958 248 727

Mobile phone: (+34) 615 570 961

Personal web site: http://www.ugr.es/~gonzaloj/

 

 

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