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Saturday, November 13, 2010

O. Pechony & D. L. Shindell, PNAS 107 (2010), Driving forces of global wildfires over the past millennium and the forthcoming century

Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (November 9, 2010; published online before print October 25, 2010), Vol. 107, No. 45, pp. 19167-19170; doi: 10.1073/pnas.1003669107

Driving forces of global wildfires over the past millennium and the forthcoming century

O. Pechony* and D. L. Shindell

National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) Goddard Institute for Space Studies and Columbia University, 2880 Broadway, New York, NY 10025, U.S.A.


Recent bursts in the incidence of large wildfires worldwide have raised concerns about the influence climate change and humans might have on future fire activity. Comparatively little is known, however, about the relative importance of these factors in shaping global fire history. Here we use fire and climate modeling, combined with land cover and population estimates, to gain a better understanding of the forces driving global fire trends. Our model successfully reproduces global fire activity record over the last millennium and reveals distinct regimes in global fire behavior. We find that during the preindustrial period, the global fire regime was strongly driven by precipitation (rather than temperature), shifting to an anthropogenic-driven regime with the Industrial Revolution. Our future projections indicate an impending shift to a temperature-driven global fire regime in the 21st century, creating an unprecedentedly fire-prone environment. These results suggest a possibility that in the future climate will play a considerably stronger role in driving global fire trends, outweighing direct human influence on fire (both ignition and suppression), a reversal from the situation during the last two centuries.

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