Study Links Climate Change to Increased Risk of Hawaii Wildfires

Credit: Dr. Clay Trauernicht

Credit: Dr. Clay Trauernicht

The need for more wildfire mitigation across Hawaii’s landscapes to protect natural resources and communities will only be greater with climate change. The time is now to take action!

This from our close colleague, a PFX coordinator, and a HWMO technical advisor, Dr. Clay Trauernicht, Wildfire Extension Specialist at University of Hawaii Manoa CTAHR.

From the Source:

The first study linking climate change to an increased probability of wildfires in Hawaiʻi also weighs the increased risks facing tropical regions around the world, according to University of Hawaiʻi at Mānoa researcher Clay Trauernicht.

Based on changes in rainfall and temperature due to climate change, the annual risk of wildfire could increase up to 375 percent for parts of Hawaiʻi Island, the analysis shows.

Lead researcher Trauernicht, of the College of Tropical Agriculture and Human Resources Department of Natural Resources and Environmental Management, tracked the “footprints” of historical fires on Hawaiʻi Island. His research shows how vegetation, ignition frequency and climate contribute to wildfire probability.

“The increased risk of fire stems from drought conditions due to low rainfall, as well as increased rainfall in the months prior to drought,” Trauernicht said. “This is because wet conditions mean greater growth of non-native grasses, which are the greatest fuel for wildfires in Hawaiʻi. Wet summer weather, combined with dry winter conditions, is characteristic of El Niño conditions and this winter looks likely to be another El Niño.”