Research Highlight: Medieval warming initiated exceptionally large wildfire outbreaks in the Rocky Mountains

Novus participants John Calder and Dr. Brian Shuman and their colleagues recently published a new paper reconstructing fire history throughout northern Colorado over the past 2,000 years (full citation below). During the Medieval Climate Anomaly (MCA) approximately 1,000 years ago, temperatures increased by ~0.5 degree Celsius. This warming resulted in a 260% increase in burned rate across the study sites. Burning declined prior to the reduction in temperature following the MCA, suggesting that reductions in forest fuel loads may have limited burning. These results have serious implications for predicting fire behavior under current and future scenarios of global climate change, particularly the link between fire regimes and changes in forest community structure.

The study was also highlighted by EurekAlert! a scientific news outlet managed by the American Association for the Advancement of Science, which interviewed Calder about the study and its ramifications for future fire behavior.

Full citation:
Calder, W.J., D. Parker, C.J. Stopka, G. Jiménez-Moreno, B.N. Shuman (2015) Medieval warming initiated exceptionally large wildfire outbreaks in the Rocky Mountains, Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, USA, doi: 10.1073/pnas.1500796112

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