Climate change tipping points: A point of no return?

TitleClimate change tipping points: A point of no return?
Publication TypeReport
Year of Publication2013
AuthorsLeQuire, E
Series TitleFire Science Digest
Document NumberIssue 15
Date Published05/2013
InstitutionJoint Fire Science Program
Keywordsclimate change, climate change and fire, jfsp fire science briefs and digests


Summer 2012 saw records fall for intensity of drought and number, size, and cost of wildfires in the Central and Western United States, and the climate forecast calls for more of the same in the near and distant future. When wildfire breaks out, emergency responders decide their immediate strategy based on past experience and quick judgment calls. But in the long term, land managers need to plan for a warmer climate on a time scale of decades, or even a century or more, to better reflect the life span of trees and forests. Studies supported by the Joint Fire Science Program (JFSP) are beginning to provide this type of guidance for managers. A central question of interest to researchers is whether there are tipping points, points of no return beyond which landscapes will not revert to their historically documented conditions. Can managers’ actions postpone or halt these drastic changes in forest conditions, or will they instead be forced to plan for a response to inevitable, abrupt changes in the landscape?