Wildfire expert publishes research about drought and overnight blazes in Nature – TRU Newsroom

Wildfire expert publishes research about drought and overnight blazes in Nature – TRU Newsroom

March 13, 2024 at 10:48 pm  Education, Kamloops, News

Dr. Mike Flannigan, BC Innovation Research Chair in Predictive Services, Emergency Management and Fire Science at TRU

KAMLOOPS — A renowned Thompson Rivers University (TRU) expert on wildfire behaviour has co-authored an article on drought and overnight wildfires in Nature, one of the world’s leading multidisciplinary science journals.

Dr. Mike Flannigan, the BC Innovation Research Chair in Predictive Services, Emergency Management and Fire Science, graduate student Kaiwei Luo – who works alongside Flannigan – and two other researchers examined 23,557 fires that occurred in North America between 2017 and 2020, using a combination of satellite and terrestrial data to analyse the burn cycle of these fires and identify continuous overnight burning events.

In the article, Drought triggers and sustains overnight fires in North America, Flannigan and his colleagues demonstrate that drought conditions promote overnight burning, which is a key mechanism fostering large active fires.

The authors identified 1,095 overnight burning events in 340 individual fires, ninety-nine per cent of which were found to involve large fires (larger than 1,000 hectares). Additionally, 20 per cent of large fires experienced at least one overnight burning event.

Another key finding was that when fires have overnight burning, one-third start burning overnight on the day they ignite and over half start burning overnight within two days, leaving little time for firefighting interventions.

Wildfires that deviate from the conventional diurnal cycle of ‘active day, quiet night’ and instead burn continuously through the night are anticipated to become even more frequent under continued climate change,” said Flannigan.

“Dr. Flannigan’s contributions in Nature underscore his leadership in the field of wildfire science and the global impact of his research,” said TRU Vice-President of Research Shannon Wagner. “TRU is strongly committed to advancing knowledge and identifying innovative solutions in the field of wildfire science.”

The article follows the introduction of TRU’s Institute for Wildfire Science, Adaptation and Resiliency, a resource that highlights the university’s growing expertise of wildfire researchers. Dr. Flannigan is scientific director of the institute.

Contact:
Dr. Mike Flannigan, BC Research Chair in Predictive Services, Emergency Management and Fire Science
Faculty of Science, Thompson Rivers University
780-222-6819 | [email protected]

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