Articles | Volume 14, issue 6
Nat. Hazards Earth Syst. Sci., 14, 1477–1490, 2014
Nat. Hazards Earth Syst. Sci., 14, 1477–1490, 2014

Research article 11 Jun 2014

Research article | 11 Jun 2014

Temporal variations and change in forest fire danger in Europe for 1960–2012

A. Venäläinen1, N. Korhonen1, O. Hyvärinen1, N. Koutsias2, F. Xystrakis2, I. R. Urbieta3, and J. M. Moreno3 A. Venäläinen et al.
  • 1Finnish Meteorological Institute, Climate Change Research Unit, P.O. Box 503, 00101 Helsinki, Finland
  • 2Department of Environmental and Natural Resources Management, University of Ioannina, G. Seferi 2, 30100 Agrinio, Greece
  • 3Department of Environmental Sciences, University of Castilla-La Mancha, 45071 Toledo, Spain

Abstract. Understanding how fire weather danger indices changed in the past and how such changes affected forest fire activity is important in a changing climate. We used the Canadian Fire Weather Index (FWI), calculated from two reanalysis data sets, ERA-40 and ERA Interim, to examine the temporal variation of forest fire danger in Europe in 1960–2012. Additionally, we used national forest fire statistics from Greece, Spain and Finland to examine the relationship between fire danger and fires. There is no obvious trend in fire danger for the time period covered by ERA-40 (1960–1999), whereas for the period 1980–2012 covered by ERA Interim, the mean FWI shows an increasing trend for southern and eastern Europe which is significant at the 99% confidence level. The cross correlations calculated at the national level in Greece, Spain and Finland between total area burned and mean FWI of the current season is of the order of 0.6, demonstrating the extent to which the current fire-season weather can explain forest fires. To summarize, fire risk is multifaceted, and while climate is a major determinant, other factors can contribute to it, either positively or negatively.

Final-revised paper