A study led by some University of Barcelona researchers analyses the impact of interannual and seasonal climate variability on the fires occurred in Catalonia last summer. The study concludes that summer fires, related to summer climate conditions, are correlated with antecedent climate conditions, especially winter and spring ones with a lag time of two years. The results suggest that precipitation and temperature conditions regulate fuel flammability and fuel structure. According to the correlations observed, the study provides a model to produce long-term predictions.
The study, published in the journal Climatic Change, comes out of the doctoral thesis of the researcher Marco Turco, directed by the UB researcher Maria del Carme Llasat, co-author of the article. From 1983 to 2007, period analysed in the study, more than 16000 fires events were recorded and the total burned area was more than 240000 hectares, around 7.5 % of Catalonia. The work develops a statistical analysis of these fires and shows that, from a climate point of view, according to Maria del Carme Llasat, “is possible to develop a model that gives us an estimation of the number of fires and the extension of the burned area related to monthly average temperature and rainfall. We developed a simple regression model which includes the influence of spring-summer climate conditions of the studied year, but specially other variables which are determinant, although they do not seem to”.
Adopting the view that climate is the main controlling factor of the interannual variability of fire, on this work the links between climate and fire variability are analysed using the high resolution (20 km x 20 km) gridded data set, called Spain02. This data set is produced by the Spanish Metereological Agency (AEMET). Accurate data for fire occurrence and burned are were obtained from the Forest Fire Prevention Service of the Generalitat de Catalunya (SPIF). The data consists in the characteristics of 16753 fire events occurred in Catalonia during the 25 years period studied. Although fires in this region occur throughout the year, about 60% of the fires occur in summer, from June to September, which amounts to be about 86% of the annual burned area.
UB researchers are working in order to use the model to estimate fire response to different climate change scenarios, assuming that climate, vegetation, humans, fire interactions will not change significantly.
Marco Turco, Maria Carme Llasat, Jost von Hardenberg and Antonello Provenzale. «Impact of climate variability on summer fires in a Mediterranean environment (northeastern Iberian Peninsula)». Climatic Change, 2012. DOI: 10.1007/s10584-012-0505-6