Under climate change, winter will be the best time for bush burn-offs, and that could be bad news for public health
At the height of last summer's fires, some commentators claimed "greenies" were preventing hazard reduction burns—also known as prescribed burns—in cooler months. They argued that such burns would have reduced the bushfire intensity.
Fire experts repeatedly dismissed these claims. As then NSW Rural Fire Service Commissioner Shane Fitzsimmons noted in January this year, the number of available days to carry out prescribed burns had reduced because climate change was altering the weather and causing longer fire seasons.
This public conversation led our research team to ask: if climate change continues at its current rate, how will this change the days suitable for prescribed burning?
Our results, published today, were unexpected. Climate change may actually increase the number of burn days in some places, but the windows of opportunity will shift towards winter months. The bad news is that burning during these months potentially increases the public health impacts of smoke.
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