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Europe’s ‘pyroregions’: Summer 2022 saw 20-year freak fires in regions

  • Published
    3rd Jan, 2023

In a recent study has represented a pan-European pyrogeography featuring four distinctive pyroregions across the continent. 

“Pyrogeography is the discipline that studies the past, current, and future projected distribution of wildfires. It offers new perspectives on landscape wildfire management and the link between wildfires and human health and livelihoods.”


What does a pyroregion means?

  • The representation of multi-scaled Spatiotemporal interactions which is to employ suitable recurring wildfire metrics to group different regions on the basis of their pyrosimilarities is known as ‘pyroregion.’
  • Significance:
  • Clustering pyroregions may also be helpful for scientists to assess potential drivers altering fire occurrences and to assess potential future scenarios relative to an appropriate baseline.

Reasons for fire incidences in Europe:

  • Extreme fire seasons are usually associated with warm climate conditions that dry out vegetation and create flammable landscapes.
  • Conditions with the strong wind may amplify the fire potential, which can be synthesised in the fire-weather index.
  • Persistent heat waves unfurled across parts of north-western and central Europe, breaking temperature records and fanning flames.
  • This is evident when aggregating fire weather conditions and fire activity in terms of anomalies — deviation from the mean — over the historical period and across pyroregions.

Will global heating remap pyroregions in the future?

  • Pyroregions also help simulate future changes in fire patterns as the planet warms.
  • Global warming has been shown to increase the frequency and magnitude of fire weather conditions as observed in 2022.
  • In a new study, it was found that an increase in fire across Europe is to global warming. The findings are in line with previous research that projects an increase across southern Europe.
  • For instance, we found an increase in the burned area exceeding 50 per cent across the northern Iberian Peninsula beyond 2°C warming above pre-industrial levels.
  • The analysis also showed large increases in fire frequency, intensity, fire-season length and percentage of large fires.

India and wildfires:

  • Forest fires continue to scorch several hectares of green cover in Uttarakhand and Himachal Pradesh.
  • Himachal reported close to 750 forest fires, while Uttarakhand recorded over 1,500 such incidents.
  • The Forest Survey of India data on forest fire points between March 1 and April 30 this year shows a clear spike in incidents coinciding with rising heat wave conditions.
  • The number of forest fire points rose from 8,735 to 42,486 during the four weeks in March.
  • However, the week-wise progress in the number of forest fire points in April peaked in the first week fell to 13,719 in the second week and picked up to touch 20,285 in the last week.
  • In the last three months, Uttarakhand has recorded at least 1,791 forest fires that have scorched over 2,891 hectares of forest land, including 2,079 hectares of reserve forest areas. These fires have caused estimated damage to property worth over Rs.74 lakh and the death of at least one person.
  • While the numbers are lesser in last year’s comparison, the issue of forest fires intensifying mainly in mid-February and continuing usually till mid-June is a major problem for the hill state which has forests in almost 71 per cent of its geographical area.
  • The chief conservator of forests admitted that the number of forest fires this year increased significantly in the month of April mainly due to an unexpected rise in temperature and less rain.
  • The strong wind velocity also contributed majorly to spreading the fires fast across the jungles.

What are the causes of forest fires in India?

  • Several factors like temperatures, precipitation, vegetation, and moisture contribute to the scale and frequency of these fires.
  • According to the Forest Survey of India, nearly 36 per cent of India’s forests are prone to frequent fires.
  • Higher fire incidents are reported in March, April and May due to ample availability of dry biomass (fuel load) following the end of winter and the ongoing summer season.
  • Most forest fires, according to experts, are man-made due to changes in agriculture and unchecked land-use patterns.

Efforts to Mitigate Forest Fires:

  • Since 2004, the FSI (Forest Survey of India)developed the Forest Fire Alert System to monitor forest fires in real-time.
  • In its advanced version launched in January 2019, the system now uses satellite information gathered from NASA and ISRO.
  • National Action Plan on Forest Fires (NAPFF) 2018 and Forest Fire Prevention and Management Scheme.
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