Scientists often warn that it is inadvisable to link specific catastrophic events to climate change. Climate science is far too complex to allow for that. However, a group of research scientists from the University of Victoria and Environment and Climate Change Canada has come pretty close in a new paper, “Attribution of the Influence of Human-Induced Climate Change on an Extreme Fire Season”, published in the scholarly journal Earth’s Future.
The research scientists found that the wildfires that consumed 1.2 million hectares of British Columbia (BC) forest in 2017 (more than twice the area of Prince Edward Island) were made two to four times more likely by human-induced climate change, and that the area consumed by fire was seven to 11 times larger than what would have been expected without human influences on the climate.
Ultimately, the research scientists found that the extreme summer temperatures during the 2017 BC forest fire season were made over 20 times more likely by human-induced climate change. Extreme high temperatures combined with dry conditions increased the likelihood of wildfire ignition and spread.
“As the climate continues to warm, we can expect that costly extreme wildfire seasons—like 2017, in BC—will become more likely in the future. This will have increasing impacts on many sectors, including forest management, public health, and infrastructure,” said Environment and Climate Change Canada Research Scientist Megan Kirchmeier-Young in a release.
The 2017 wildfire season set an all-time record for BC, but it didn’t stand for long. A new record was set in 2018, with more than 1.35 million hectares consumed by fire.