The Impact of Climate Change and Man on the Spatial Distribution of Wildfire Events : A GIS and Ranking System Approach
Wildfire is a destructive and devastating phenomenon experienced all around the world, which is predicted to increase in frequency and geographical range as climate change continues throughout the 21st century and beyond. This paper used a GIS approach to analyse the expected change in wildfire geographical range by 2050 using a Global Climate Model of the worst case scenario. After new wildfire-prone regions were identified, an analysis of these regions was undertaken regarding human-risk to ignition, currently the largest cause of wildfire outbreaks. This was performed using a ranking system of variables known to increase the human-risk, namely rural exodus, density of agricultural machinery, prevalence of tobacco smoking, and camping tourism popularity. The results were in consensus with the scientific community regarding the effect of climate change on the geographical range of wildfire outbreaks, and identified Europe as a key area of future concern. Within Europe, Austria was seen as having the highest risk to human-ignition. This could be of utmost importance to European, especially Austrian, management agencies as they look to restrict the future impact of climate change on their communities. This paper serves as an example of how spatiotemporal patterns of extreme weather events and climate change can be projected using GIS.
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