The Impact of a 2 × CO2 Climate on Lightning-Caused Fires

Colin Price NASA Goddard institute for Space Studies and Columbia University, New York, New York

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David Rind NASA Goddard institute for Space Studies and Columbia University, New York, New York

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Abstract

Future climate change could have significant repercussions for lightning-caused wildfires. Two empirical fire models are presented relating the frequency of lightning fires and the area burned by these fires to the elective precipitation and the frequency of thunderstorm activity. One model deals with the seasonal variations in lightning fires, while the second model deals with the interannual variations of lightning fires. These fire models are then used with the Goddard Institute for Space Studies General Circulation Model to investigate possible changes in fire frequency and area burned in a 2 × CO2 climate. In the United States, the annual mean number of lightning fires increases by 44%, while the area burned increases by 78%. On a global scale, the largest increase in lightning fires can be expected in untouched tropical ecosystems where few natural fires occur today.

Abstract

Future climate change could have significant repercussions for lightning-caused wildfires. Two empirical fire models are presented relating the frequency of lightning fires and the area burned by these fires to the elective precipitation and the frequency of thunderstorm activity. One model deals with the seasonal variations in lightning fires, while the second model deals with the interannual variations of lightning fires. These fire models are then used with the Goddard Institute for Space Studies General Circulation Model to investigate possible changes in fire frequency and area burned in a 2 × CO2 climate. In the United States, the annual mean number of lightning fires increases by 44%, while the area burned increases by 78%. On a global scale, the largest increase in lightning fires can be expected in untouched tropical ecosystems where few natural fires occur today.

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