Bushfires research will build on Climate Futures work

New ACE research into bushfire risk in a changing climate will help to guide long term planning by Tasmania’s emergency services. The two-year project will use regional climate model projections developed in the Climate Futures for Tasmania (CFT) project to calculate the likely risk and impact of bushfires under two greenhouse gas emissions scenarios. Researcher Dr Michael Grose said the CFT data sets could be used to provide detailed regional information on likely changes to both bushfire weather and to conditions that affect bushfire fuels. Projected changes to temperature, wind, relative humidity and wind speed are used to examine the likely changes to bushfire weather. The same variables plus projections of rainfall, evaporation, cloud and radiation are used to examine likely changes to the biomass and drying of bushfire fuels. The project will focus on understanding the drivers of change and gaining a full understanding of underlying causes. For example, the likely changes to bushfire weather will be related to the relevant weather systems and global patterns. This approach will ensure that the project is based on sound understanding and provides plausible scenarios of future change. The project will not just examine weather, but will have a close look at the other side of fire risk: fuels. “This model output allows us to calculate fuel drying using standard measures, and estimate fuel loads using biophysical models of plant growth,” Michael said. “We will also be looking into more fundamental changes to fuels, such as shifts in the extent and structure of vegetation types such as grassland and forest.” The CFT project downscaled global climate models to a 10-km grid across Tasmania to project local climate conditions out to the end of this century. These data sets have been already used to assess the impact of the changing climate on agriculture, water and catchments and the incidence of extreme events. As with the other components of the CFT project, the bushfire research will involve end users from the beginning. The State’s emergency services, fire agencies and government bodies will guide the project to ensure that it delivers the information they need. One of the hallmarks of the CFT project has been its interdisciplinary reach, and the bushfires project will continue this approach.  “We will conduct research and draw in expertise across fields of meteorology and climatology of bushfire weather, through to ecological relationships in bushfire fuels,” Michael said. The new project is called Bushfire Risk with a Changing Climate and is funded through the State Emergency Service from the Federal Government’s National Disaster Resilience Program. ACE’s partners and collaborators in the project include the State Emergency Services; Tasmanian Fire Service; the Tasmania Department of Primary Industries, Parks, Water and Environment; Forestry Tasmania; Hobart City Council; the Bureau of Meteorology; and UTAS.

Authorised by the CEO of the Antarctic Climate and Ecosystems Cooperative Research Centre October 2019.

The ACE CRC was established and supported under the Australian Government’s Cooperative Research Centres Program.

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