Those values were extremely high, and were 30 percent more likely to be that high now than before 1900. Put another way, the researchers said, such high values are about four times more likely now than they were before.
The study also separately analyzed the influence of climate change on the extreme heat that Australia experienced during the fire season, and on the lack of rainfall during the same period. It found that extremely hot weeks like the fourth week of December, the country’s hottest on record, were at least twice as likely now than before 1900. The analysis of lack of rainfall found no significant trend related to climate change.
Benjamin M. Sanderson, a researcher at the European Center for Research and Advanced Training in Scientific Computing in Toulouse, France, who was not involved in the study, said the findings were reasonable.
“You can quite solidly say that extreme high temperatures play a role in fire risk,” he said. “And anthropogenic influences are easily detectable in terms of extreme temperatures.”
But he agreed with the researchers that wildfire is complex, and said the Australian disaster exposed the weaknesses of today’s climate models: they have difficulty drawing the connections between climate and fire.
“There are some events on the ground that have huge human and ecological impacts,” he said. “This was one of them. You look at what came out of the models and realize they were not very good at representing the severity of this process.”
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