Giving Compass’ Take:
• According to new research, the severity of wildfires in the Sierra Nevada region of California has been sensitive to changes in climate over the past 1,400 years.
• How can communities better inform themselves about wildfires in order to create prevention plans? How can donors invest in relief efforts that consider long-term prevention?
The findings suggest that future climate change is likely to drive increased fire activity in the Sierras.
“Our data show that climate has been the main driver of fire on a regional scale,” says lead author Richard Vachula, a PhD student in earth, environmental, and planetary sciences department at Brown University. “We find that warm and dry conditions promote fire, which in light of climate model predictions suggests that future fires may be more extensive than we have observed in the last century.”
The researchers based their findings on sediment cores from the bottom of Swamp Lake, located toward the northern edge of Yosemite National Park. As fires have burned in the region over the years, charcoal from smoke plumes falls into the lake, eventually sinking to the bottom and embedding itself in sediment. By tracking changes in charcoal content with depth, Vachula and his colleagues created a sequential record of how much area had burned around the lake over the past 1,400 years up to 2007, when researchers took the cores.
The sizes of the charcoal particles enabled the team to track both local and regional fire activity. Smaller particles, which can travel farther in the air, record regional fire in a roughly 90-mile radius of the lake. Larger particles, which don’t carry as far, represent local activity within about 15 miles.
Read the full article on California wildfires and climate change by Kevin Stacey at Futurity.
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