As the world warms, many areas are becoming drier. Such dryness can lead to increased forest fires, fires which end up burning larger and longer. As greenhouse gases continue to accumulate in the atmosphere, scientists believe events such as forest fires will increase in frequency.
But forest fires themselves beg the question as to whether or not they are contributing to the world’s greenhouse levels as well. Could forest fires be driving their own increasing frequency? In a manner of speaking, yes.
Long term climate changes will cause areas such as the southwest of the Untied States to become drier, thus leading to more wildfires like those currently burning in Arizona. These wildfires themselves put greenhouse gases into the atmosphere-thereby increasing the impacts of climate change.
But how significant is the contribution made by forest fires to the greenhouse gases in the atmosphere? According to a study performed by the National Center for Atmospheric Research located in Boulder, Colorado, the contribution of forest fires across the U.S. is around six to eight percent per year of the U.S. emissions total. This statistic was determined by analyzing forest fires in the U.S. between 2001 and 2008. There has been an increase in forest fire severity recently so this statistic may have slightly changed.
Although the percentage is worthy of note, individual forest fires are minor contributors to the climate change problem facing the world. Forest ecologist Beverly Law from Oregon State University stated: “A common misconception is that fire emissions are huge compared to fossil fuel emissions. They are not, really. Fossil fuel emissions trump everything.”