Scientists in the United Kingdom say the recent fires in Australia are a sample of what the world will experience as temperatures rise.
Professor Richard Betts of the Met Office Hadley Center said we are “seeing a sign of what normal conditions would be in a world of 3C global warming.”
While natural weather patterns have caused recent fires, researchers said it is “common sense” that human-induced warming is playing an important role.
Last year was the warmest and driest year in Australia.
Researchers in the United Kingdom have carried out a rapid analysis of the impact of climate change on the risk of forest fires worldwide. His study analyzed 57 research articles published since the last major review of climate science came out in 2013.
All studies in the review showed links between climate change and the greater frequency or severity of the fire climate. This is defined as those periods of time that have a higher risk of fire due to a combination of high temperatures, low humidity, low rainfall and strong winds.
The sign of man-induced warming has become clearer in different parts of the world over time. An article published last year suggests that the impact of climate change could be detected outside the range of natural variability in 22% of the land available for burning.
“Overall, the 57 documents reviewed clearly show that man-induced warming has already led to a global increase in the frequency and severity of the fire climate, increasing the risks of forest fires,” said Dr. Matthew Jones , from the University of East Anglia, and the lead author of the review.
“This has been seen in many regions, including the western US and Canada, southern Europe, Scandinavia and the Amazon. Man-induced warming also increases fire hazards in other regions, including Siberia and Australia”.
However, the review says that the dramatic fire situation observed in Australia in recent months is “difficult to diagnose.”
Natural weather patterns have played an important role in creating the right conditions for forest fires. The conditions in the Indian Ocean and the Pacific have meant hot and dry periods throughout the country.
But the influence of man-driven climate change is also in the mix.
“This (the fires) would have happened naturally, but we can be sure that they have intensified due to man-made climate change,” Professor Betts said.
Speaking at the launch of the global review, he noted the fact that Australia is now approximately 1.4C warmer than the global average temperature in the pre-industrial period.
“The temperatures in December in Australia, which have occurred recently, are extreme for now, but they would be normal in a world that is warming for three degrees, so we are seeing a sign of what normal conditions would be in a world with warming future. 3 degree, “explained Professor Betts.
At this time, the world has warmed around 1C since the 1850s. Even with current government plans to limit CO2 emissions, the world is on its way to around 3 ° C warming by the end of this century. .
Other experts involved in the review say that people are seeing the sign of global warming “with their own eyes” when it comes to forest fires and heat waves.
“These are the impacts we are seeing in a degree of global climate change. The impact will worsen as long as we do not do what is necessary to stabilize the global climate,” said Professor Corinne Le Quéré, from the University of East Anglia. in Norwich
“And what is needed is to reduce CO2 and other long-term greenhouse gases to zero net emissions. If we do not, we will have much worse impacts, so what we are seeing in Australia is not the new normal, it is a transition to worse impacts. ”
Details of the documents included in the review can be found on the ScienceBrief online platform.
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