Recent climate change paper generates renewed interest in future fire impacts

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Projections of the annual frequency of Very High and Extreme (VH + E) forest fire danger over the fire season months.

A paper recently published by Scion scientists has generated renewed interest in the potential impacts of climate change on wildfire risk in New Zealand.

The paper in the international journal Forestry summarised a decade of research into multiple climate change effects on New Zealand’s plantation forests.

For wildfire, the paper reiterated that most areas of the country will experience an increase in fire danger in future, with the average fire season length increasing by about 70% per cent up to 2040 and by about 80% per cent up to 2090. Although the most fire prone regions of Gisborne, Marlborough and Canterbury will remain the highest at risk, the relative (%) increase in fire danger frequency is highest in Wellington and coastal Otago, where it could double and triple to 30 days and 20 days of Very High & Extreme fire danger per season, respectively. (see NZ Herald article).

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Projected average number of days of the fire season with Very High and Extreme (VH + E) forest fire danger under current conditions and in 2040 and 2090, at individual station locations and averaged for New Zealand across the 12 GCMs. Locations were grouped with respect to New Zealand’s main mountain ranges, then ordered by latitude (northern-most left).

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