Fourth AMS Student Conference


Changes in thunderstorm and forest fire frequency in response to climate warming in Alaska

Eric Freeman, Univ. of North Carolina, Asheville, NC

Alaska is warming rapidly and much faster than most places on Earth. The state has warmed 4 degrees Celsius in its interior and 2 degrees Celsius statewide in a little over 50 years. Responses, or feedbacks, to this warming include melting of glaciers, permafrost (part of the Alaskan landscape for thousands of years) and coastal sea ice (causing major coastal erosion). Another feed back to the warming is the infestation of the spruce bark beetle in Alaska's boreal forests. An increase in growing season is allowing these nonnative insects to move throughout the state and destroy millions of acres of forest. Dead trees left behind these invasions provide excess fuel for wildfires with 2004 having a record number of acres burned in a single wildfire season.

Another response to the warming, due to increased surface heating, should be the increase in frequency of thunderstorms. More thunderstorms will increase the likelihood of more lightning and dry lightning strikes, in turn, increasing forest fires and acreage burned. The purpose of this study is to examine the changes in frequency of thunderstorms and forest fires (acreage burned) in various regions of Alaska due to the warming that is currently taking place throughout the state.

Poster Session 1, Student Conference Poster Session
Sunday, 9 January 2005, 5:30 PM-5:30 PM

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