Global warming threat to forests

Global warming threat to forests

15July 2005

publishedby www.hbtoday.co.nz


NewZealand–Climate change is likely to make forest and grass fires more common in Hawke’s Bay according to a new report.

The report, entitled “Impact of Climate Change on Long-term Fire Danger”, was compiled by the National Institute of Water and Atmospheric Research and Scion and released to the Fire Service Commission.

The report said climate change would increase the risk of fires in rural areas from Gisborne to Wairarapa.

NIWA climate scientist Dr Jim Salinger said dangerous fires were often the result of strong winds, high temperatures, low humidity and seasonaldrought.

“These conditions are expected to increase with global warming and the associated climate change and hence increase the number of days when very high extreme forest fire danger occurs,” he said.

The study also says there is likely to be an increased frequency of thunderstorms and lightning.

Hastings District Council rural fire officer Michael Maguire said the findings in the report are what he had expected.

He said Hawke’s Bay suffered from extremely dry conditions at the height of the summer and the climate change would mean these conditions lasted longer.

“We had five reasonable fires last year. There were significant fires at Te Mata peak and an exotic forest,” he said.

Central Hawke’s Bay District Council regulatory service officer Allen Vickress said they hoped that public awareness of fire danger would combat any increased fire risk but was doubtful there would be a significant increase.

“They’re talking about one or two percent so it is not really going to affect us a lot,” he said.

Last summer Central Hawke’s Bay escaped without a significant fire and this has a lot to do with the education done by Bruce Kitto over the last 10 years, he said.

“We had a bad summer in 1995, there was a lot of carelessness, people were uneducated about fires and did not know about the risks,” he added.

Wairoa District Council rural officer Kevin Duley said they had three rural fire brigades and a New Zealand fire association brigade all who were trained and ready to deal with rural fire risks. 


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