Image_3_Attributing Increases in Fire Weather to Anthropogenic Climate Change Over France.JPEG (748.81 kB)

Image_3_Attributing Increases in Fire Weather to Anthropogenic Climate Change Over France.JPEG

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posted on 17.04.2020 by Renaud Barbero, John T. Abatzoglou, François Pimont, Julien Ruffault, Thomas Curt

Anthropogenic climate change is widely thought to have enhanced fire danger across parts of the world, including Mediterranean regions through increased evaporative demand and diminished precipitation during the fire season. Previous efforts have detected increases in fire danger across parts of southern Europe but a formal attribution of the role of anthropogenic climate forcing has not been undertaken. Here, we attempt to disentangle the confounding effects of anthropogenic climate change and natural variability on observed increases in fire danger in France over the past six decades, with a focus on the fire-prone Mediterranean region. Daily fire weather and fire-related drought indices were computed from a reanalyses dataset covering the 1958–2017 period. Anthropogenic signals in meteorological variables were isolated using 17 climate models and then removed from observations to form a set of counterfactual observations free of anthropogenic climate change. Our results show that anthropogenic climate change is responsible for nearly half of the long-term increases in fire weather and fire-related drought conditions across the Mediterranean region and have significantly elevated the likelihood of summers with extreme fire danger. Fire danger conditions such as those observed during the near-record breaking 2003 fire season have a <0.2% annual probability (return interval >500 years) of occurrence in the absence of anthropogenic climate change, compared to a probability of ~10% (return interval ~10 years) under today's climate accounting for anthropogenic climate change. Our approach provides modernized estimates of current fire danger levels and expected return levels of extreme fire seasons considering climate change, which may help inform fire management agencies and decision making.

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