The Effects Of Climate Change Essay

1198 words - 5 pages

According to the United States Environmental Protection Agency, “climate change refers to any significant change in measures of climate [like] temperature, precipitation or wind, lasting for an extended period [of time].” Human activities, natural factors and processes like burning of fossil fuels, alterations in the intensity of the sun and ocean circulation are a few ways in which climate change can occur (U.S.EPA, 2011). This paper will be addressing the effects climate change has on forest fires and health as well as the relationship(s) between extreme weather events and the effects of climate change.
Forest fires
These happen to be one of the dominant disturbances in the United States as it is a primary process that influences the composition and structure of the vegetation in any given location. In the U.S., an average of about 100, 000 fires burn over an area of 3, 300, 000 acres during the past ten years annually (Flannigan, Stocks, Wotton, 2000). Form year-to-year; there is a great deal of variability in the statistics for forest fires. For example, between 1992 and 1996, there has been an increase of about 5.5 million acres of total burned area. That is, the difference of 6.5 million acres in 1996 and 1 million in 1992 (Flannigan, et al. 2000). Majority of the burnt areas are as a result of relatively small fires, like all the wildland fires in the western U.S. where 1% is responsible for 98% of the total burnt area. The west and southeast of the U.S. are where most of the burned areas typically occur (Flannigan, et al. 2000). The time of the year these fires occur vary based on the regions they occur in. In the southwest and southeast, most of the areas burned occur in May and June. Whereas, in terms of the areas burned in the northwest and Alaska, the most active months are July and August (Flannigan, et al. 2000).
In as much as humans accidentally or deliberately start most of the fires, the ones that pose the most serious threats are the lightning-ignited wildfires. This is as a result of most lightning fires occurring in difficult-to-reach remote areas and early detection and time of response of great significance (Flannigan, et al. 2000). In addition, a key factor that is important in determining the fuel moisture that determines if the ignition will occur and if the fire will grow, is the weather condition before ignition. This is because lightning occurs as a result of meteorological conditions like atmospheric instability (Flannigan, et al. 2000). Among these weather conditions that influence the moisture of the fuel are temperature, precipitation, wind speed and atmospheric moisture. Furthermore, these fires affect the recreational value of the landscape and forest industry, as it is difficult to remove charcoal from the production process (Flannigan, et al. 2000). As a result of smoke from the wild or prescribed fires causing respiratory problems, these fires can also pose a health concern.
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