Climate change impacts on wildfires in a Mediterranean environment
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We analyse the observed climate-driven changes in summer wildfires and their future evolution in a typical Mediterranean environment (NE Spain). By analysing observed climate and fire data from 1970 to 2007, we estimate the response of fire number (NF) and burned area (BA) to climate trends, disentangling the drivers responsible for long-term and interannual changes by means of a parsimonious Multi Linear Regression model (MLR). In the last forty years, the observed NF trend was negative. Here we show that, if improvements in fire management were not taken into account, the warming climate forcing alone would have led to a positive trend in NF. On the other hand, for BA, higher fuel flammability is counterbalanced by the indirect climate effects on fuel structure (i.e. less favourable conditions for fine-fuel availability and fuel connectivity), leading to a slightly negative trend. Driving the fire model with A1B climate change scenarios based on a set of Regional Climate Models from the ENSEMBLES project indicates that increasing temperatures promote a positive trend in NF if no further improvements in fire management are introduced.