Far more wildfire hectares have burned to date in Europe than average

Wildfires to date in Europe map
Wildfires to date in Europe, May 14, 2019.

The number of hectares that have burned in wildfires so far this year in Europe is over four times the average for this date. Usually wildfire activity begins in earnest around the first of July but this year burned hectares began accumulating rapidly in mid-February. The 11-year average by May 14 is about 35,000 hectares but this year the to-date total is 197,000.

One hectare is equal to 2.47 acres.

Accumulated wildfire hectares to date in Europe
Accumulated wildfire hectares to date in Europe, May 14, 2019.

It is April — and parts of Europe are in High to Very High wildland fire danger

Wildland fire danger Europe
Wildland fire danger in Europe, April 24, 2019. European Forest Fire Information System (EFFIS). Click to enlarge.

Researchers look at how warming will exacerbate the occurrence of wildfires in Mediterranean Europe

wildfire portugal
Wildfire south of Porto, Portugal, September 2, 2012. Photo by Bill Gabbert.

The climate warming that we have been seeing is expected to continue along with the increased risk of larger, more suppression-resistant wildfires. Scientists have examined how this will affect fires in Europe up to a 1.5°C  rise, which is the not-to-exceed target in the Paris climate agreement. Now a study is complete that examines increases of 1.5, 2, and 3°C warming scenarios. Not surprisingly, it found that the higher the warming level, the larger is the increase of burned area, ranging from ~40% to ~100% across the scenarios. Their results indicate that significant benefits would be obtained if warming were limited to well below 2 °C.

wildfires Climate Change Southern Europe
Ensemble mean burned area changes. Burned area changes (%) for a the +1.5 °C case with the stationary model SM (i.e., using Eq. 3), (b) the +1.5 °C case with non-stationary model NSM (i.e., NSM). using Eq. (4), (c) the +2 °C case with SM, (d) the +2 °C case with NSM, (e) the +3 °C case with SM, and f the +3 °C case with NSM. Dots indicate areas where at least 50% of the simulations (1000 bootstrap replications × the ensemble of RCMs) show a statistically significant change and more than 66% agree on the direction of the change. Coloured areas (without dots) indicate that changes are small compared to natural variations, and white regions (if any) indicate that no agreement between the simulations is found. Click to enlarge.

The paper, published in Nature, was written by Marco Turco, Juan José Rosa-Cánovas, Joaquín Bedia, Sonia Jerez, Juan Pedro Montávez, Maria Carmen Llasat, and Antonello Provenzale.

European Commission proposes to enhance ability to respond to civilian disasters

“rescEU”, if approved, would establish a reserve force of air tankers and other firefighting equipment

Above: file photo of air tankers, mostly water scoopers, at Dryden (Ontario, Canada) Regional Airport in June, 2015 before they were dispersed around the province to deal with the rising number of wildfires. Photo by Chris Sherwin.

(Originally published at 10:55 a.m. MDT November 24, 2017)

The proposal would complement national assets and would be managed by the European Commission in order to support countries hit by disasters such as floods, forest fires, earthquakes and epidemics. Alone in 2017, over 200 people were killed by natural disasters in Europe and over one million hectares of forest have been destroyed.

President Jean-Claude Juncker said:

Europe can’t be on the side-lines when our Member States suffer from natural disasters and need help. No country in Europe is immune to natural disasters which have sadly become the new normal. When a disaster strikes, I want the European Union to offer more than condolences.

“rescEU” would create an EU civil protection response reserve of civil protection assets to assist Member States in responding to disasters, when national capacities are overwhelmed. rescEU would include assets, such as firefighting aircraft and water pumping equipment, to complement national capacities. All costs and capacities of rescEU would be fully covered by EU financing, with the Commission retaining the operational control of these assets and deciding on their deployment.

In parallel, the Commission would assist Member States to boost their national capacities, by financing the adaptation, repair, transport and operation costs of their existing resources – whereas today only transportation costs are covered. The assets would become part of a shared pool of emergency response resources under the European Civil Protection Pool, and would be made available for deployment when disaster strikes.

So far in 2017 over 200 people have been killed by natural disasters in Europe. Since 1980, as well as the human cost, EU Member States have lost over EUR 360 billion in weather and climate extreme events. In Portugal alone, the direct economic damage of forest fire events between June and September is estimated at close to EUR 600 million, representing 0.34% of Portugal’s Gross National Income.

Since its establishment in 2001, the EU Civil Protection Mechanism has monitored over 400 disasters and has received over 250 requests for assistance. The EU Civil Protection Mechanism can be activated in response to man-made and natural disasters, but also supports disaster preparedness and prevention.

The EU Civil Protection Mechanism includes all EU Member States as well as several other participating states outside the EU, namely, Iceland, Norway, Serbia, the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, Montenegro and Turkey. rescEU would be extended to these participating states as a sign of European solidarity.

Wildfires in central Europe

Hot, dry weather over the last several weeks has led to numerous wildfires in central Europe, especially in Austria and southern Germany, Georg, one of our loyal readers in Germany tells us. Some of the fires are in steep terrain, he said. Thanks Georg!

He sent us some links to sites with photos and descriptions (in German) of recent wildfires. (Thankfully, the photos are in English 😉  )

  • Here’s one
  • At this fire there were about 250 firefighters and 50 soldiers.
  • About 680 firefighters were assigned to a third fire, along with 3 helicopters and 3 Single Engine Air Tankers.

The images below are screen grabs from the video you’ll see farther down.

fire Engine on road Firefighters along a fence

Firefighters refill a helicopter bucket
Firefighters use two hoses to refill the bucket of a hovering helicopter.
Firefighters refill a helicopter bucket
Firefighters use two hoses to refill the bucket of a hovering helicopter.

Google Translate took a stab at translating the description of the above video:

From the fire of pine forest between Wiener Neustadt and Weikersdorf was affected by the fire, said Alexander Nittner by the State Fire Command in Tulln: “The big challenge for the firefighters is that the wind constantly rotates, the approach is extremely difficult and already about 15 acres forest on fire. “by Thursday evening, the fire spread to an area of ​​20 hectares.