Colorado – Scientists warn about the side effects of global warming, saying it could increase the number and strength of wildfires after they studied the records of the past 2,000 years in Colorado’s mountain. The research was published in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.
Researchers examined the charcoal deposits, a residue made of carbon and ash obtained when water is removed from vegetation substance due to heating and the absence of oxygen, in 12 lakes near the mountains of northern Colorado. The results show that wildfires have burned larger and have been increasing with passing time.
“Even modest regional warming trends, like those we are currently experiencing, can cause exceptionally large areas of the Rockies to be burned by wildfires,” said scientist John Calder of the University of Wyoming, according to the press release.
About 1,000 years ago, there was a period known as “the Medieval Warm Period”, lasting 300 years during which temperatures were under 1 degree Fahrenheit, showing that the levels are increasing.
Thomas Baerwald, who funded the research, said that “This project demonstrates the significance of historical records in addressing current issues. Scientists are working to understand the complex interactions among climate, vegetation, land use, fire and other factors.”
The researchers believe that this data recovery provides a new way of interpreting these processes in the present. The temperatures of recent wildfires can compare to those on the Medieval Warm Period, resulting in some of the largest wildfires in the history of the U.S. According to the scientists, since 1980 the frequency of these events have raised, starting with the Yellowstone National Park.
Scientists warn that recent fires could just be the very beginning of a series of large-scale fires. “When we look back in time, we only see evidence of large areas burning one time in the last 2,000 years,” Calder adds. “This suggests large wildfires of the magnitude we’ve recently seen used to be very infrequent.”
Making comparisons between temperatures in the Rocky Mountains from the last century to the 2000, experts found that a larger amount of territory has been burned due to the fires. They say not even the largest fires in the MWP happened with so few amount of time between each other, suggesting the rates are running high.
“The large increase in the number of sites burned by fires during the MWP highlights the risk that large portions of individual landscapes may burn as the climate continues to warm today,” the scientists concluded.
Source: The National Science Foundation