Climatic Change

, Volume 38, Issue 1, pp 1-13

First online:

Climate Change and Forest Fire Potential in Russian and Canadian Boreal Forests

  • B. J. StocksAffiliated withCanadian Forest Service
  • , M. A. FosbergAffiliated withIGBP-BAHC Core Project Office, Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research
  • , T. J. LynhamAffiliated withCanadian Forest Service
  • , L. MearnsAffiliated withNational Center for Atmospheric Research
  • , B. M. WottonAffiliated withCanadian Forest Service
  • , Q. YangAffiliated withCanadian Forest Service
  • , J-Z. JinAffiliated withCanadian Forest Service
  • , K. LawrenceAffiliated withCanadian Forest Service
  • , G. R. HartleyAffiliated withCanadian Forest Service
    • , J. A. MasonAffiliated withCanadian Forest Service
    • , D. W. McKENNEYAffiliated withCanadian Forest Service

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In this study outputs from four current General Circulation Models (GCMs) were used to project forest fire danger levels in Canada and Russia under a warmer climate. Temperature and precipitation anomalies between 1 × CO2 and 2 × CO2 runs were combined with baseline observed weather data for both countries for the 1980–1989 period. Forecast seasonal fire weather severity was similar for the four GCMs, indicating large increases in the areal extent of extreme fire danger in both countries under a 2 × CO2 climate scenario. A monthly analysis, using the Canadian GCM, showed an earlier start to the fire season, and significant increases in the area experiencing high to extreme fire danger in both Canada and Russia, particularly during June and July. Climate change as forecast has serious implications for forest fire management in both countries. More severe fire weather, coupled with continued economic constraints and downsizing, mean more fire activity in the future is a virtual certainty. The likely response will be a restructuring of protection priorities to support more intensive protection of smaller, high-value areas, and a return to natural fire regimes over larger areas of both Canada and Russia, with resultant significant impacts on the carbon budget.