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A link between wildfires and global warming?

Although no one weather event can be said to be a direct result of climate change, scientists predict that increases in global warming will have far-reaching effects on all parts of the world.  According to the traditionally cautious United States EPA, “climate change may increase the probability of some ordinary weather events reaching extreme levels or of some extreme events becoming more extreme.”

This article from the Washington Post also raises the issue:

Hot and dry Australia sees wildfire danger rise

By ROHAN SULLIVAN
The Associated Press
Tuesday, February 10, 2009

SYDNEY — Australia may be getting a glimpse of its globally warmed future.

Experts agreed Tuesday that no one drought, flood or wildfire can be attributed to global warming, but they stressed that the eucalyptus forest and farms of southeastern Australia are becoming warmer, drier and more prone to fire as the planet heats up.

Some say rising temperatures are making Australia’s climate more extreme at the edges. Snow will disappear from the few mountains that still have it, the cyclones that batter the topical north could get more powerful and the conditions that set the southeast ablaze could become common.

“The terrible events of the past couple of weeks are, without doubt, partly the result of global warming and the greenhouse effect,” said Neville Nicholls, an expert on climate change and wildfires at Australia’s Monash University.

Global warming cannot be blamed for starting the hundreds of recent fires _ tens of thousands of such blazes erupt across Australia every fire season, from October to March _ but the effects of climate change exacerbated their ferocity, Nicholls said.

First, a decade of drought has made Australia’s wild forests _ known as “the bush” _ tinder dry. Second, a sustained and record-breaking heat wave settled over the region. Lastly, record-smashing temperatures on Saturday topped 117 degrees Fahrenheit (47 degrees Celsius) and combined with winds up to 60 mph (100 kph) to whip fires into furnace-like intensity.

The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, the Nobel Prize-winning team of scientists responsible for advising the United Nations about global warming, says the rise in the atmosphere’s temperature could cause water shortages, crop failures, more deaths from heat waves and more severe storms around the world.

In Australia, it means more droughts in the dry south and more flooding in the tropical north. The Great Barrier Reef, the world’s largest coral reef system rich in sealife and sensitive to small temperature changes, is in trouble.

Source: The Washington Post

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