Even the slightest change in temperature can cause severe consequences, and global warming is increasing the number of wildfires that are currently taking part in the West, predicted to continue in the future.
- Researchers sampled charcoal from the bottom of 2,000 lakes in northern Colorado
- It showed that between 1,100-1,200 years ago, the local area weather increased by 0.9oF (MWP)
- Before the MWP, the areas of the forests were burned around 50%, peaked at 83%, then gradually decreased to 33%
- Recent numbers have seen the frequency of wildfires grow from 30% to 50%, due to an additional 1.25oF increase in temperature since 2000
Researchers at the University of Wyoming have literally dug out worrying information about the natural state of the area from over 1,000 years ago. They the unearthed samples from charcoal material at the bottom of 2,000 lakes in the Mount Zirkel Wilderness in northern Colorado. Over the course of years, the remains mixed with the sediment and provided layers of information.
The study has been prompted due to the increase of wildfires in the area, generally attributed to local area weather change. The fires have become more frequent and blazed down around 9 million acres in the West and Alaska this year, far more than ever recorded since 2006.
This disturbing trend, however, has a precedent and seems to be growing.
The examined samples have uncovered that during the Medieval Warm Period (MWP), which was between 1,100-1,200 years ago, wildfires burned around 83% of the area within just one century. This was after previous years had seen to only 50% of the land scorched. And it was caused by an increase in temperature by just 0.9oFahrenheit.
That implies that even the smallest of changes in temperatures could pave the way to disaster for the forests in subalpine environments, such as spruce, fire and pine forests above 7,000 feet. According to Bryan Shuman, who co-authored the paper, this had happened before and their statements that the number of wildfires will continue to increase is not just speculation. It’s history proven.
Beginning with the vast wildfires of 1988 that took place in Yellowstone Nationwide Park, the frequency has severely increased. As stated by co-author of the study, John Calder, the temperature in the Rocky Mountains has been heighted by 1.25oFahrenheit since 2000. That has been much larger than at any point during the 20th century.
Thus, it has been suggested that history might start repeating itself again.
The study has shown that wildfires are highly sensitive to climate change, and even small increase can spark more flames than believed. The large difference between the areas burned in Yellowstone, from 30% until the mid-1980s to 50% in more recent years, shows a worrying possibility.
Larger portions could burn in the upcoming decades. In fact, according to Shuman, it’s possible that a person would see around 25% of the trees in the aforementioned mountain range gone in their lifetime.
Image source: news.com.au