11 March 2023

Why are boreal forest fires on the rise everywhere but in Finland?

A research article published in Science showed that carbon dioxide emissions from fires in boreal forests have been increasing during this century, reaching a new high in 2021. Although boreal fires typically account for only one tenth of global carbon dioxide emissions from all wildfires, in 2021 they produced nearly one quarter of the total emissions.

The reason for this increase was the rare concurrence of water deficits in North America and Eurasia. This problem is exacerbated by the fact that increasing numbers of extreme weather events contribute to global warming, making it even more challenging to mitigate the effects of global change.

It is interesting to compare Finland and Sweden, two neighboring countries that are highly similar in many ways. Both countries experience relatively low levels of forest fire activity compared to other countries, but there is still a notable difference. In Sweden, 3 000 to 4 000 fires burn approximately 2 000 to 5 000 hectares annually. In contrast, Finland has a considerably lower average number of forest fires, around 1 000 per year, with each fire covering an average burnt area of only 0.5 hectares.

So, why do we see this difference? 

There are three main reasons for Finland's success in managing forest fires. Firstly, the country experiences weaker winds, which slows down the spread of fires in burning forests.

Secondly, Finnish society is well-equipped to recognize forest fires, thanks to the presence of volunteer fire brigades with superior local knowledge compared to municipal firefighters. This enables faster site location and response times.

Thirdly, the abundance of forest roads in Finnish forests allows firefighters to quickly reach burning sites. Despite being narrow, these roads are effective in slowing down the spread of fires by creating breaks in the continuous forest cover.

Given that forest fires pose a continuous risk to the global climate, other nations could benefit from adopting Finnish practices and techniques to manage such disasters.

Previous thoughts on the same topic:
Fair policy will build a strong Union
A new justification is needed for environmental activists
Historical context of forest fires in Kalajoki (Written in Finnish, but readable in English using Google Translate)

No comments:

Post a Comment

You are free to comment on the blog posts, but I ask you to stay on topic and adhere to respectful language and good manners.