Mon August 29, 2011

Southern South American Wildfires Expected to Increase

This summer has some scientists saying extreme drought and hot temperatures may be the new normal for parts of the U.S.  Meantime some Colorado researchers say more intense wildfires may be the new normal for parts of South America.

A new University of Colorado Boulder study finds increased wildfire activity in the southern half of South America may be inevitable in coming years.  That’s thanks to a major climate oscillation in the southern hemisphere.  Andres Holz is a research associate at CU Boulder.  He says fire history for the last 400 years was reconstructed, and related to climate shifts over the last 250 years. 

“And we found that the southern annular mode, which is strongly driven by ozone depletion and warming, at least over the last 50 years, is driving strongly this oscillation.  So in other words, warming conditions and the ozone in Antarctica is creating more of these fire prone conditions,” he says.

This is particularly true in Patagonia, the southern region of Argentina and Chile.  Holz says as warming trends continue, wildfires will become more frequent and intense, even in areas where fire suppression was previously successful.  A paper on the subject was published in Geophysical Research Letters.

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