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Volume 18, issue 3 | Copyright

Special issue: Spatial and temporal patterns of wildfires: models, theory,...

Nat. Hazards Earth Syst. Sci., 18, 847-856, 2018
© Author(s) 2018. This work is distributed under
the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License.

Research article 16 Mar 2018

Research article | 16 Mar 2018

Extreme wildfire events are linked to global-change-type droughts in the northern Mediterranean

Julien Ruffault1,2,3, Thomas Curt1, Nicolas K. Martin-StPaul4, Vincent Moron2,5, and Ricardo M. Trigo6 Julien Ruffault et al.
  • 1IRSTEA, RECOVER, Écosystèmes Méditerranéens et risques, Aix-en-Provence, France
  • 2CEREGE, UM34 CNRS, Aix-Marseille Université, Europôle Méditerranéen de l'Arbois, Aix-en-Provence, France
  • 3IMBE, Aix Marseille Université, CNRS, IRD, Avignon Université, Marseille, France
  • 4INRA, URFM, Avignon, France
  • 5IRI, Columbia University, Palisades, USA
  • 6Instituto Dom Luiz (IDL), Faculdade de Ciências, Universidade de Lisboa, Lisbon, Portugal

Abstract. Increasing drought conditions under global warming are expected to alter the frequency and distribution of large and high-intensity wildfires. However, our understanding of the impact of increasing drought on extreme wildfires events remains incomplete. Here, we analyzed the weather conditions associated with the extreme wildfires events that occurred in Mediterranean France during the exceptionally dry summers of 2003 and 2016. We identified that these fires were related to two distinct shifts in the fire weather space towards fire weather conditions that had not been explored before and resulting from specific interactions between different types of drought and different fire weather types. In 2016, a long-lasting press drought intensified wind-driven fires. In 2003, a hot drought combining a heat wave with a press drought intensified heat-induced fires. Our findings highlight that increasing drought conditions projected by climate change scenarios might affect the dryness of fuel compartments and lead to a higher frequency of extremes wildfires events.

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Short summary
Extreme wildfires events (EWE) have been recorded during the past year in the Mediterranean. By analyzing the climatic conditions associated with the French 2003 and 2016 fires seasons, we found that EWE were associated to two distinct climatic events whose frequencies are both expected to increase with global changes: hot droughts and long droughts. These results suggest that EWE are likely to become more common in the future and will certainly challenge fire management.
Extreme wildfires events (EWE) have been recorded during the past year in the Mediterranean. By...