Mediterranean a wildfire hotspot now : EU scientists

Source: Reuters

Relevance: Impacts of human-induced climate change

Synopsis: Climate change is causing intense heatwaves across the world and contributing to rising cases of wildfires, too.


The Mediterranean has become a wildfire hotspot, with Turkey hit by its most intense blazes on record and a heatwave producing a high risk of further fires and smoke pollution around the region. Wildfires are raging in countries including Greece and Turkey, where thousands of people have been evacuated from their homes.

Southern Europe is already experiencing an intense heatwave, with some places in Greece on Tuesday recording temperatures of over 46oC. Human-induced climate change is making heatwaves more likely and more severe, scientists say, using the EU’s Copernicus Atmosphere Monitoring Service (CAMS). CAMS monitors wildfires through satellites and ground-based observation centers.

CAMS is one of six services that form Copernicus, the European Union’s Earth observation programme which looks at our planet and its environment

Causes of Wildfire

Both Anthropogenic and Natural factors causes fires. These include the following,

Anthropogenic causes (90% of all wildfires)Natural Causes
Smoking: Smoking is the leading cause of forest fires globally. Throwing away the cigarette butts without completely extinguishing them can lead to wildfires.Lightning: A lightning strike can produce a spark. Sometimes the lightning can strike power cables, trees, or rocks and any other thing and this can trigger a fire.
Campfires: During camping or outdoor activities people normally leave lit fires or combusting materials unattended. That will ignite wildfires.Volcanic eruption: Hot magma in the earth’s crust is usually expelled out as lava during a volcanic eruption. The hot lava then flows into nearby fields or lands to start wildfires.
Burning Debris: Wastes and trash are on several occasions burned to ashes as a way of reducing the accumulation of rubbish. For example, the recent Simlipal Forest fire is due to this only.Heat patterns: Increased temp due to global warming are making the forests more vulnerable. Rising atmospheric temperatures and dryness (low humidity) make favorable circumstances for a fire to start.
Fireworks: Fireworks are used by humans for various reasons such as festivals. However, their explosive nature can start wildfires.Climate Change: Massive fires in the Amazon forests in Brazil and in Australia are primarily due to Climate Change. The fires due to climate change have certain characteristics in common. It is also applicable to India. They are,

  • Longer duration of fires
  • High-intensity fires
  • Fires of high-frequency
Slash and Burn Cultivation: This is one of the major reason for the fire in India’s Northeastern region.In India the march and April month see more wildfires. It is due to the availability of large quantities of dry wood, logs, stumps, dead leaves, dry grass and weeds in forest lands.
 Lack of soil moisture: The dryness in the soil triggers fire in forests.  For example, the recent Uttarakhand wildfires are due to this.
Suggestion to reduce wildfires
  1. Capacity development of forest departments’ officials at different levels (national,
    regional, local) to reduce the vulnerability of Indian forests fire.
  2. Creating forests fire control manuals for field staff. Thus suggesting steps to early detection, reporting and controlling the fires.
  3. Policy at the national level: A cohesive policy or action plan should be formulated to set forth the guiding principles and framework for wildfire Management. The policy should also incorporate the dimension of climate change.
  4. Using indigenous knowledge and techniques of local and tribal people in comprehensive wildfire management.
  5. Improving the Staffing and capacity of firefighters in the country. For example, construction of watchtowers and crew stations, hiring seasonal fire watchers to spot fires, etc.
  6. Technology: Modern firefighting techniques such as the radio-acoustic sound system for early fire detection and Doppler radar should be adopted.
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