News | Fire Weather

By: Francisca Yunis Richter

Published on April 28, 2023

The number of extreme weather events such as cold and heat waves, droughts and cyclones, has reached values never seen before. An example of this is Chile, which in 2022 registered more than 50 heat waves in a period of 90 days

(Center for Climate Science and Resilience, 2023)

The central-southern zone of Chile has been affected by devastating wildfires which are difficult to control, generating social, economic and environmental impacts. Human activities, changes in land use, and the increase of urban-rural interface areas are the main risk factors for disasters aggravated by the climate crisis.

According to the latest reports from the Intergovernmental Panel for Climate Change (IPCC), associated with a projection of meteorological data related to relative humidity, wind speed, and direction, height, among other records, the South American region has projected an increase in droughts both in frequency and severity and also in their coverage area. Therefore, fire weather would increase, referring to conditions that favor the spread of smoke and fires (CSIRO, 2021).

Atmospheric conditions, such as temperature, precipitation, wind, and humidity, exert profound control over the fire regime. Ultimately, this will be limited by the weather of a region, either by the amount of fuel or its humidity content (González et al, 2020). According to data from the University of Chile, the 2023 summer season recorded the highest temperatures in the country’s history, favoring the changing climate condition, where temperatures above 30ºC are increasingly recurrent, increasing the frequency of heat waves.

Extreme heat waves can create ideal fire weather conditions, exacerbated by drought and high temperatures. Climate change, in relation to hot events, affects human health through the frequency and severity of rising temperatures, which can cause heat stress in the human body due to changes in wind, humidity, and heat circulation patterns. High temperatures also can negatively affect crops and livestock, damaging plant growth and promoting heat-stressed cattle, which can directly affect the production that supports the food chain of the population. 

During the last decade, the fire season in Chile has been extended significantly; Prior to 2010, the most devastating fires generally occurred between the months of November and April of the following year; however, currently, they start from mid-October to May of the following year. When comparing the different fire seasons, wildfires increased by approximately 64 days, which means that the length of the season has increased by 43% (González et al, 2020).

Source: Maximum temperature values recorded in central-southern Chile between February 1 and 5, 2023. Obtained from records from various institutions accessible at: vismet.cr2.cl.
Source: Number of fires and burned area 1977-2018, (González et al, 2020)

References

Centro de Ciencia del Clima y la Resiliencia (2023). Día Meteorológico Mundial: científico señala el desafío de Chile ante el cambio climático (El Mostrador). Available at: https://www.cr2.cl/dia-meteorologico-mundial-cientifico-senala-el-desafio-de-chile-ante-el-cambio-climatico-el-mostrador/ (Accessed 03/04/2023).

González, M.E., Sapiains, R., Gómez-González, S., Garreaud, R., Miranda, A., Galleguillos, M., Jacques, M., Pauchard, A., Hoyos, J., Cordero, L., Vásquez, F., Lara, A., Aldunce, P., Delgado, V., Arriagada, Ugarte, A.M., Sepúlveda, A., Farías, L., García, R., Rondanelli, R.,J., Ponce, R.,Vargas, F., Rojas, M., Boisier, J.P., C., Carrasco, Little, C., Osses, M., Zamorano, C., Díaz-Hormazábal, I., Ceballos, A., Guerra, E., Moncada, M., Castillo, I . (2020). Incendios forestales en Chile: causas, impactos y resiliencia. Centro de Ciencia del Clima y la Resiliencia (CR)2, (ANID/FONDAP/15110009), 84 pp. Available at: https://www.cr2.cl/incendios/

Corporación Nacional Forestal, (2021). Personal de CONAF usará fuego para prevenir Incendios Forestales de Magnitud. CONAF. Available at: https://www.conaf.cl/personal-de-conaf-usara-fuego-para-prevenir-incendios-forestales-de-magnitud/ (Accessed 10/04/2023).

Universidad de Chile, (2023). ¿Cómo adaptar las ciudades y la agricultura a los crecientes registros de altas temperaturas?. Available at: https://uchile.cl/noticias/202971/como-adaptar-las-ciudades-y-la-agricultura-a-las-altas-temperaturas (Accessed el 12/04/2023)

CSIRO (2021). Las claves para comprender los reveladores hallazgos del último reporte del Panel Intergubernamental para el Cambio Climático (IPCC). Available at: https://www.csiro.cl/las-claves-del-ipcc/ (Accessed 17/04/2023).)

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