Saturday, March 31, 2018

About that wildfire season the WI DNR says is 'heating up.'

The Wisconsin DNR says the wildfire season is "heating up."

More about that in a moment.

Academics have been studying the projected impacts of climate change and temperatures increases on Wisconsin forests for years
In the coming century, forecast climate changes caused by increasing greenhouse gases may produce dramatic shifts in tree species distributions and the rates at which individual tree species sequester carbon or release carbon back to the atmosphere. The species composition and carbon storage capacity of northern Wisconsin (USA) forests are expected to change significantly as a result. Projected temperature changes are relatively large (up to a 5.8°C increase in mean annual temperature) and these forests encompass a broad ecotone that may be particularly sensitive to climate change. 
The Union of Concerned Scientists sees a link between a warming climate and greater wildfire danger:
As the world warms, we can expect more wildfires
Wildfire seasons (seasons with higher wildfire potential) in the United States are projected to lengthen, with the southwest’s season of fire potential lengthening from seven months to all year long. Additionally, wildfires themselves are likely to be more severe.
Researchers and modelers project that moist, forested areas are the most likely to face greater threats from wildfires as conditions grow drier and hotter. 
And more studies show how a warming climate can put people in the path of fires:
The results highlight the fact that extreme weather conditions not only produce higher fire risk than normal weather conditions, but also change the fine-scale locations of high risk areas in the landscape...
You have to really dig into the DNR website to find discussion of climate change and forest health. A 2010 forestry plan still posted on a DNR webpage not updated since 2015 gets at some of it: 
Forests have significant and dynamic interactions with the atmosphere. Air pollutants can reduce forest productivity and diversity, especially in sensitive species and genotypes....
The largest and most essential of these interactions is the uptake and respiration of carbon dioxide. Our forests and other ecosystems process tens of millions of tons of carbon dioxide annually. Carbon dioxide is captured during photosynthesis and most of it is returned to the atmosphere through respiration. A very small fraction (in the single digit percentiles) is captured in plant biomass and soils annually. Determining the amount of carbon stored in plants and soils can be difficult. Current estimates suggest as much as eight million tons of carbon dioxide is stored every year in our forest vegetation and soils. This capture or sequestration of carbon is, and will become even more, important as we seek to reduce Wisconsin’s net greenhouse gas emissions.
The remaining greenhouse gases (including methane, nitrous oxide, hydrofluorocarbons, perfluorocarbons, and sulfur hexafluoride) have little to no direct effect on forests. However, potential changes in climate patterns caused by these gases, such as droughts, storms, and length of the growing season, could significantly affect forest communities...
Criteria pollutants, and especially greenhouse gases, have been shown to influence forests communities when assessed over decades and longer time frames...
Concentrations of the major greenhouse gases (carbon dioxide, methane, and nitrous dioxide) in the atmosphere have varied over the millennia, but their concentrations have increased substantially with the fossil fuel combustion associated with industrial development and the land clearing associated with population growth and economic activity.
Carbon dioxide is an essential plant nutrient, but elevated atmospheric concentrations may lead to internal imbalances in tree nutrition, affect insect-disease relationships, and influence climate patterns... 
Major issues associated with atmospheric interactions include the following: 
Changes in forest communities, economic relationships, and recreational uses.
Changes to insect-disease relationships as well as fire and management regimes.
Reductions in forest productivity and diversity including changes in forest species composition, acute foliar injury, and effects on sensitive species and genotypes
Changes to physical processes such as water flow, elemental cycling, wildlife habitat, and associated forest values...
Greenhouse Gases – Greenhouse gas concentrations will continue to rise unless significant regulatory and voluntary efforts are made to reduce emissions at personal, state, national, and global levels. Increasing concentrations will contribute to climate change and will impact forest health and productivity. Effects are likely to be observed statewide and may be assessed as having positive or negative impacts depending on the specific parameter being measured. For example, certain species may become more prevalent or have greater productivity, while other species are diminished. Regardless, changes in the climate and our forests will alter traditional land uses, management activities, and recreational uses.
Criteria Pollutants – Ozone concentrations in the atmosphere and nitrogen, sulfur, and mercury emissions from regulated sources are anticipated to decrease as regulations on air pollution become increasingly restrictive at state and federal levels.
But you won't see Wisconsin's DNR focusing on the impacts of climate change because nearly all that information, links to outside agencies and related materials were scrubbed from the agency website, leaving a text like this without much context:
  1. As Wisconsin’s wildfire season starts “heating” up, Sec. Dan Meyer takes a look at some of the firefighting equipment ready to roll at the DNR’s LeMay Forestry Research & Development Center in Tomahawk.

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