photo: chadly via flickr
A few months back researchers shows how climate change is going to shift wildfire hotspots, now scientists are saying that global warming could well burn parts of the Western US to a crisp -- Only a modest increase in average temperatures could nearly triple the area in some places burnt by forest fires:The research, done at the University of Leeds, has been published in the Journal of Geophysical Research (via Science Codex) and shows that by 2050 if temperatures rise only 1.6°C that areas burnt by forest fire will expand significantly.
Keep in mind that the G8 recently pledged to keep temperature rise below 2°C, so this amount of increase is all but assured to happen.
Rockies, Pacific Northwest to See Largest Increases
The areas seeing greatest increase in fires will be the Pacific Northwest and the Rocky Mountains. The study predicts the Northwest will see a 78% increase in area burnt, with the Rockies seeing an increase of 175%.
The reason for all the extra burning: As temperatures increase, we are likely to see drier forests, leading to larger and more serious fires.
Air Quality Also Likely to Deteriorate
In addition to the effects on the ground, the report authors point out that a serious decrease in air quality over the Western part of the continent could also result -- a 40% increase in soot in the air (organic carbon aerosols) is forecast.
More: Science Codex
Global Warming Effects
New Study Forecasts Global Warming Will Change Wildfire Patterns
Another Dire Global Warming Effect: 10 Times As Many Ocean Dead Zones
Global Warming Changes to Snowmelt Patterns in Western US Could Have Larger Impact Than Previously Thought