Lightning strikes is causing big fires in important forests, like those in Canada, which are vital for fighting climate change. These forests trap carbon, a gas that warms the Earth. Scientists are worried because if lightning happens more, it could lead to a big problem. When trees burn, they release carbon dioxide (CO2), creating more storms and possibly more lightning.
Background: Fewer Fires Worldwide, But More in Forests
Canada had a tough fire season this year, with over 6,500 fires burning 18 million hectares of land. Smoke reached big cities and even traveled across the ocean.
Canada’s Challenging Fire Season
Unlike other years, fires spread all over the country, even reaching places like Quebec. Lightning strikes caused most fires in the northern regions.
New Study: Cracking the Code of Fire Starters
Using advanced tools, a study created a world map showing where fires start in forests. They found that 77% of burned areas were due to lightning, unlike in hot places where people cause most fires.
Lightning and Mega-Fires
In places where lightning starts fires, like distant forests, small fires can grow into massive ones. Big storms can lead to thousands of lightning strikes, creating mega-fires that are hard to control.
Climate Change Connection: More Heat, More Lightning
Computer models predict that if the Earth gets warmer, there might be 11-31% more lightning over cool northern forests. This could lead to more fires, releasing more CO2 and warming the Earth.
Concerns: Fires Worsening Earth’s Temperature
More lightning could worsen Earth’s temperature, creating a cycle of increased warming, more storms, and potentially more lightning. This is a big problem for crucial forests that capture carbon.
Protecting Forests from a Big Problem
Efforts are underway to keep these forests safe and reduce the risk of more fires. Understanding the connection between climate change, lightning, and fires is crucial. Safeguarding these special forests is essential for the health of our planet.