Fire Weather

Fire Weather

Posted on 11 May 2023

Fire that’s closest kept burns most of all. -  William Shakespeare

From California to Siberia, forest fires are becoming more common and widespread. The carbon spiral - where CO2 is released from global warming induced events, contributing further to the greenhouse effect that contributed to the fires starting initially.

In our previous article, we looked at the future of forestry, its challenges, and technological advances. We now take a glance of the increasingly disruptive effect of the combination of forests, changing seasons and carbon emissions.

USA Forests 

The West coast of the USA is famous for its golden, sun-drenched beaches and relaxed lifestyle. However, it is becoming increasingly infamous for the phenomenon of ‘fire weather’. This term does not refer to the actual forest fires, but the process of priming the landscape through a combination of high temperatures, strong winds and low humidity to be more susceptible to instant and ferocious ignition.

These weather conditions pull the moisture out of the vegetation to create, in effect, dry and combustible fuels. One spark may easily ignite a wildfire that can be pushed across the landscape with incredible speed. 

For example, the Camp Fire of 2018, moved so quickly that it overwhelmed the city of Paradise, causing devastation to local communities. 

Other Factors

The prevailing weather conditions are not the only contributing factor to Fire Weather -  land management decisions also play a significant role. 

In the USA, regions such as = California and Oregon are coastal regions covered in forests that once regularly burned in a healthy way. Lightning would ignite a relatively small fire that burnt through brush, clearing way for new growth but leaving many mature trees alive. Historically, Native Americans also set purposeful fires to strategically reset ecosystems. The landscape would burn a great deal, but importantly, less intensely, since flammable brush didn’t have a chance to pile up between burns.

But since the 1950s, land managers have taken a very different approach through the use of  fire suppression - immediately putting out anything that might threaten residential areas. This approach has allowed the buildup of dry vegetation, in effect the fuel for forest fires. 

Additional social factors have exasperated the situation. As more communities are living in the “wildland-urban interface,” where the forest meets towns, means that people are more likely to set accidental fires, whether from a cigarette butt thrown out a window or electrical infrastructure malfunctioning.

This, coupled with more communities living in the “wildland-urban interface,” where the forest meets towns, and where people are setting more accidental fires, whether from a cigarette butt thrown out a window or electrical infrastructure malfunctioning.

Climate change has also affected the growth of forest fires by cheating a shift in the seasons. As a warmer atmosphere holds more water, actual rainfall may increase, though the length of the wet season would decrease, meaning that the dry season would last longer into the year. 

Boreal Forests

These forests exist in an area of the world that can be seen to be starkly different from the sunny California we all either know or imagine. The expanse of Boreal (or snow) forests cover large areas of Siberia, Northern America, Sweden, Finland, and even parts of the Scottish Highlands. 

Forest fires in these areas have been shown by a recent study to have potentially extremely damaging effects on the global climate. Boreal forest fires usually make up 10% of global wildfire-related carbon pollution. However, in 2021, their contribution increased to 23%, burning nearly 45 million acres of Russian forest. This was partially due to the extreme drought and heat waves experienced in Siberia and Canada that helped drive the intense fires.

These forests are also carbon dense, releasing 10 to 20 times more CO2 than comparable wildfires in other areas. Fires started to burn north of Yakutia, in areas that had never previously experienced the phenomenon. 

The warmer atmospheric conditions meant that the vegetation experienced more growth than in previous years, though also became dry and highly flammable later in the season, creating a perfect environment for forest fires to take hold. 

The Weather Forecasting Effect

Canada’s National Audubon conservation organization promotes the careful combination of scientific research, and the traditional land conservation techniques employed by indigenous governments.

As forests provide one of the most important carbon sinks to mitigate climate change. With increasing global temperatures, forests and other wooded areas are becoming more susceptible to wildfires. These fires release carbon into the atmosphere, exacerbating the effects of climate change, damaging forest ecosystems, and creating dangerous levels of air pollution. The worst forest fires this century were witnessed is 2021, causing 9.3 million hectares of tree cover loss globally. 

OpenWeather have announced our Fire Weather Index product, which is designed to help users estimate current and forecast fire danger, and reduce the risk of the incredibly damaging effect of this increasingly common phenomenon.

William Shakespeare may well have been writing centuries before even the most primitive of weather forecasting technologies existed, however even in his fictional plays, he could still predict the importance of sustainable forestry management …

For, being green, there is great hope… 

Henry VI Part 2, Act 3, Scene 1

About OpenWeather:

OpenWeather provides weather data for any location on the globe using a proprietary hyperlocal forecasting model with a resolution from 500 m to 2 km, globally. More than 5,000,000 customers from logistics, agriculture, insurance, energy, retail, and many other sectors, are working with the company's weather products. 

OpenWeather cooperates with global meteorological agencies such as MetOffice and NOAA, and enhances its model with data from radars, weather stations and satellites. The company provides great availability of service at 99.9% for enterprise-level products. 

The products can be easily integrated into complex IT systems and are ideal for ML analytic systems. OpenWeather is a member of Royal Meteorological Society and an Achilles-certified supplier. OpenWeather ethical initiatives include support of educators and students, not-for-profit subscriptions for the general public to increase weather awareness, and recent Ukrainian donation programme, and donations to COVID researchers.

For more information on how to gain access to our OpenWeather products, please email us.

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