Canada — The number of major forest fires in B.C. will likely increase by 50 per cent or more in the next 40 years according to a recent report on climate change.
Telling the Weather Story, released this week by the Insurance Bureau of Canada, addresses altering weather patterns across the country in the coming decades and urges Canadians to adjust to the realities of climate change.
The study predicts B.C. can expect an increase in wildfires over the average of nearly 2,000 blazes a year between 2000 and 2010. Furthermore, the province will likely see a host of other weather-related issues like warmer temperatures, declining and, in some regions, disappearing mountain snowpacks, more intense rainfall during the winter, and drier summers. The number of wildfires sparked by lightning strikes responsible for nearly 60 per cent of fires is also expected to rise.
Its not a just a possibility, said Dr. Gordon McBean, the reports lead researcher. Theres a very real probability it will happen.
McBean, a climatologist and professor at the University of Western Ontario, conducted the research with cooperation from the Institute for Catastrophic Loss Reduction, where he also serves as policy chairman.
He explained the study arrived at the predicted figures by linking existing data on blazes caused by lightning to climate conditions. The information was then put through a simulation that projected ahead to 2030 and 2060.
The scientific community [behind the report] is very confident, McBean said. These projections are based on very solid science. Climate change is already happening in Canada.
Brian Simpson, director of the provinces Wildfire Management Branch, told The Vancouver Sun the reports predictions are worrisome, but added that current trends already reflect the growing frequency and size of B.C.s wildfires. In 2010, more than 331,000 hectares of land were affected by fires, the highest number in two decades. The numbers are up across the board, he said. Its disconcerting. If we get [the kind of fire activity thats predicted] its going to mean more damage and a bigger impact.
Simpson said the Management Branch works constantly to improve its ability to handle and minimize damage caused by large, uncontrollable fires. One of its plans calls for the creation of fire-resilient landscapes. The strategy involves methods such as using controlled burns to limit buildup of natural fuel like leaf litter, public education on wildfire management, and encouraging community planning in at-risk areas to include wildfire preparation.
The time is now to start that work, Simpson said. We need to create more fire-resistant ecosystems so that when the large fire occurs and they will were in a position to make sure the damage is impacted or mitigated. It all goes a long way to supporting the efforts when the time comes.