The future socioeconomic threat of wildfires
According to American and Chinese scientists, western and central Africa may be victims of wildfires in the future.
Scientists believe that wildfires will represent a higher socioeconomic danger in the coming years as they continue to burn agricultural regions and harm people.
A study uses machine learning to model where wildfires are likely to strike in coming years, as well as their impact on humanity.
The researchers, from Peking University in Beijing and Oak Ridge National Laboratory in the United States, believe that their work will be used to reveal regional inequalities in wildfire exposure, allowing them to better prepare for flames in particular places.
They employed 13 Earth system models to mimic the atmosphere, ocean, sea, ice, land surface and vegetation on land, ocean biogeochemistry, and the transport of carbon through the Earth system.
While the models predicted a smaller rise in carbon emissions from wildfires, socioeconomic variables predicted a larger increase.
Researchers believe the increased risks are due to "compound regional enhancement of future wildfire activity and socioeconomic development in the western and central African countries, necessitating an emergent strategic preparedness to wildfires in these countries.”
Wildfires are more likely to strike residential and agricultural areas as nations in western and central Africa develop.
During the 2019–2020 Australian bushfire season, a succession of significant wildfires scorched huge regions, costing over US$20 billion and killing at least 33 people. These kinds of consequences are expected to grow increasingly widespread.
The researchers discovered many areas that are likely to face a "more flammable future," including the Congo, which according to their modeling faces a higher leaf area index – meaning there will be more fuel to burn – and populated areas in the United States that could face catastrophic impacts similar to those seen in Australia.
Researchers explained that “for the populated western and north-eastern coasts and the Appalachian Mountains of the US, as well as northern and eastern Australia, our observational constraint confirms the previously projected more flammable future from fuel drying under climate change, suggesting an increased likelihood of the 2019–2020 Australian bushfire and 2020 extreme western US wildfire seasons in the upcoming decades."