Max Moritz speaks to KQED about fire and climate change

Apr 15, 2009

The Bay Area National Public Radio affiliate KQED posted "reporter's notes" on the Quest portion of its Web site yesterday featuring comments from UC Berkeley fire ecology specialist Max Moritz about recently published research that predicts changes in world wildfire patterns due to climate change. Quest is a KQED multimedia series exploring Northern California science, environment and nature.

In the written notes, reporter Craig Miller explained that Moritz and a team of researchers found that climate change won't cause a rise in wildfire everywhere in the world.

In audio interview excerpts, Moritz himself says that different climatic variables -- such as precipitation patterns and temperatures -- around the world mean climate change will have different effects on wildfire patterns. Most places, including California, will see increases in wildfire activity; other areas, like the Pacific Northwest, may see fewer, less intense fires. 

"(The fact) that just in the next couple of decades we’re going to see very extensive and rapid shifts in fire activity, I think that’s a bit of a surprise," Moritz said.

He also spoke about another shift in common assumptions about climate change and wildfire that was derived from the research:
"Instead of climate change pushing vegetation and species around, and then maybe new fire patterns (forming), it probably means a flip flop. Climate change is going to be changing fire patterns, which is going to be pushing vegetation patterns around relatively rapidly and over extensive parts of the planet."

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By Jeannette E. Warnert
Author - Communications Specialist