Preprint Hypothesis Version 1 Preserved in Portico This version is not peer-reviewed

Causes and Drivers of Bushfires

Version 1 : Received: 18 October 2020 / Approved: 19 October 2020 / Online: 19 October 2020 (15:17:34 CEST)

How to cite: Falvey, D. Causes and Drivers of Bushfires. Preprints 2020, 2020100391 (doi: 10.20944/preprints202010.0391.v1). Falvey, D. Causes and Drivers of Bushfires. Preprints 2020, 2020100391 (doi: 10.20944/preprints202010.0391.v1).

Abstract

Historical analysis of Australian bushfire data spanning 170 years addresses whether the strength of recent fire events has been exacerbated by human-induced climate change. The question of “cause” looks at the characteristics of a wider range of natural hazards. Fire characteristics are compared with earthquake hazard characteristics: (1) energy – termed “magnitude”; (2) severity – termed “intensity”; and (3) resultant damage to people and structures – termed “impact”.Published global, Northern and Southern hemisphere temperature data are shown to vary consistently in phase over 170 years, but vary in amplitude with statistical significance. CO2 levels north and south of the Equator have tracked quite consistently. Thus, Southern Hemisphere bushfire magnitude and intensity is compared with the Southern Hemisphere climate record, rather than a global data set.28 major bushfires and associated droughts since 1850 show neither apparent drought extent, nor area burned, nor bushfire intensity, correlates with changes in Southern Hemisphere climate. Average rainfall from 1900 shows a wetter, rather than drier trend. Cyclone energy shows no significant trend with climate. Planet-wide “greening”, through CO2 fertilisation, is an insignificant contributor to bushfire magnitude. Combustion theory shows recorded “global warming” could have had no significant influence on bushfire magnitude or intensity. Any increase in Australian bushfire impact, as judged by lives lost, similarly, shows no correlation with bushfire magnitude, nor indeed, any observed Southern Hemisphere global warming.Thus, bushfire magnitude seems much more likely driven by fuel load and any anomalous bushfire intensity is likely driven by anomalous ground level fuel load. The evidence suggests that any CO2 emissions reduction will have no impact on future bushfire “severity.

Subject Areas

bushfires; forest fires; climate change; natural hazard characterisation; hazard magnitude; intensity; impact; history of fires and droughts; fire magnitude and intensity vs global temperatures; causes of bushfires

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