How is climate change affecting forest fire risk in Europe?

Policy Question
  Indicator codes: CLIM 035

Key messages

(05 Nov 2019)

  • The burnt area in the Mediterranean region has shown a slightly decreasing trend since 1980, but with high interannual variability; the meteorological fire hazard has increased over the same period as a result of global climate change. These opposite trends suggest that efforts to improve fire management have generally been successful.
  • Large forest fires in recent years have affected various regions in northern and western Europe in which fires were not prevalent in the past. More European countries suffered from large forest fires in 2018 than ever before, and Sweden experienced the worst fire season in reporting history. The unprecedented forest fires in several European countries in 2017 and 2018 coincided with record droughts and heatwaves in these years.
  • More severe fire weather and, as a consequence, substantial expansion of the fire-prone area and longer fire seasons are projected in most regions of Europe, in particular for high emissions scenarios. The increase in fire danger is projected to be particularly large in western-central Europe, but the absolute fire danger remains highest in southern Europe. Adaptation measures, such as improved fire prevention and suppression, can substantially reduce fire risks.

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