The reason, according to the study, is that rising temperatures have gradually reduced the moisture levels that night air could previously hold.
“It’s easier to start something on fire when they are dry and hot than if they’re cold and wet,” explained Adam Mahood, a fire ecologist and one of the authors of the study.
Researchers first heard anecdotal evidence from Brazil that fires were burning more often at night, Mahood said. After two years of studying data from recently launched satellites, the scientists were able to quantify the change. They call the cause “vapor pressure deficit.”
The study, recently published in the journal Nature, concludes that “traditional fire monitoring systems rely on ground-based cameras or satellite imaging to see smoke or flames and alert local firefighters, but by the time they detect them it’s often too late.”
The study notes that some of the most devastating forest fires have recently burned fiercely at night. They include California’s Dixie Fire in July 2021, which incinerated more than 963,000 acres, and the Marshall Fire in the suburbs of Boulder, Colo., which destroyed over 1,000 homes starting on Dec. 30, 2021.
Reprinted from E&E News with permission from POLITICO, LLC. Copyright 2022. E&E News provides essential news for energy and environment professionals.