Severe wildfires have doubled in frequency and intensity over the past 20 years.

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It seems we’re getting used to the Earth being on fire. Lately, more than 70 forest fires fires simultaneously in Greece. In early 2024, Chile experienced its worst wildfire season on record, with more than 130 people died. Last year, Record-breaking wildfires in Canada burns from March to November, and in August, the fire devastated Maui Island, Hawaii. And the list goes on.

Watching the news, you certainly feel like catastrophic wildfires are happening more frequently, and unfortunately, this feeling has now been confirmed to be true. new research Published in the journal Nature Ecology & Evolution, the number and intensity of Earth’s most severe wildfires have doubled over the past two decades.

The authors of the new study, researchers at the University of Tasmania, first calculated the energy released by different fires over 21 years from 2003 to 2023. They did this using satellite-based sensors can determine the heat from a fire, measuring the energy released as “fire radiant energy”.

The researchers identified a total of 30 million fires (technically, 30 million “fire events,” which can consist of multiple clusters of fires grouped together). They then selected the top 2,913 fires that released the most energy, or 0.01 percent of the “most extreme” wildfires. Their research found that these extreme wildfires are becoming more frequent, with their number doubling over the past two decades. Since 2017, Earth has experienced six years with the highest number of extreme wildfires (all years except 2022).

Importantly, these extreme wildfires are also becoming more intense. Fires classified as extreme in recent years have released twice as much energy as those classified as extreme at the beginning of the study period.

These findings are consistent with other recent evidence that wildfires are getting worse. For example, the area of ​​forest burned each year is increasing slightly, leading to increase in forest carbon emissions(The total area of ​​land burned each year is actually decreasedue to a decrease in grassland and cropland fires, but these fires are lower in intensity and emit less carbon than wildfires.)

Burn severity—an indicator of how much fire damage is done to ecosystems—is also getting worse in many areas, and the proportion of land burned by severe fires is also increasing globally.

Illustrating trends in extreme burned area and proportion of area burned at high severity for six 'biomes with...

Provided by Victor Fernandez Garcia


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