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Australian research predicts an increased risk of wildfires around the world as the air grows thirstier.



Nature Communications

– A new study led by Australian researchers found that increased atmospheric demand for water is associated with an increased risk of major fires in the world’s forests, calling for more urgent and effective action to combat climate change.

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Published in the journal Nature Communications on November 22, the study examined satellite records of fire activity and a global climate data set to find the maximum daily vapor pressure deficit (VPD) for each fire detection: more than 30 million. records in the last 20 years. .

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As a measure of the thirst of the atmosphere, VPD describes the difference between how much moisture is in the air and how much moisture the air can hold when it is saturated. The greater this difference, the greater the drying power of the air over the fuels.

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According to the study, a wildfire is much more likely above a certain threshold in VPD, while the thresholds differ between forest types, being lowest in boreal and temperate forests and highest in Mediterranean, subtropical, and tropical forests. tropical.

Using VPD as a parameter, the research team predicted that climate change may lead to widespread increases in forest risk, with at least an additional 30 days above critical thresholds for fire activity in forest biomes across all continents by 2100. .

Hamish Clarke, a research leader at the University of Melbourne, said in a university news release published Wednesday that around the world there are more conditions under which forests dry out and become flammable.

“Some of the areas of greatest concern are the Amazon rainforest and other tropical forests, as well as the temperate and boreal forests of the Northern Hemisphere,” Clarke said.

“Without strong weather action, there will be many more days each year, at least 30, when Earth’s forests cross into this flammability hotspot. This means we are likely to see more major fires, with all the risks that come with them.” . ”, said the expert.

The study also warned that increased wildfire risk threatens major population centers in Africa and Asia, as increased smoke from wildfires has a substantial impact on human health.

“It is currently estimated that more than 330,000 deaths annually worldwide are attributable to smoke inhalation, a number that could rise markedly by the turn of the century, particularly in the more populated areas of East Asia,” Clarke added. ■


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