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The sensitivity of global wildfires to simulated past, present, and future lightning frequency



In this study, components of the Max Planck Institute Earth System Model were used to explore how changes in lightning induced by climate change alter wildfire activity. To investigate how climate change alters global flash frequency, simulations with the atmospheric general circulation model ECHAM6 were performed for the time periods preindustrial, present-day, and three future scenarios. The effect of changes in lightning activity on fire occurrence was derived from simulations with the land surface vegetation model JSBACH. Global cloud-to-ground lightning activity decreased by 3.3% under preindustrial climate and increased by up to 21.3% for the RCP85 projection at the end of the century when compared to present-day, respectively. Relative changes were most pronounced in North America and northeastern Asia. Global burned area was little affected by these changes and only increased by up to 3.3% for RCP85. However, on the regional scale, significant changes occurred. For instance, burned area increases of over 100% were found in high-latitude regions, while also several regions were identified where burned area declined, such as parts of South America and Africa.

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