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Observed and expected changes in wildfire-conducive weather and fire events in peri-urban zones and key nature reserves of the Czech Republic

Mirek Trnka*, Jan Balek, Martin Možný, Emil Cienciala, Petr Čermák, Daniela Semerádová, František Jurečka, Petr Hlavinka, Petr Štěpánek, Aleš Farda, Petr Skalák, Jana Beranová, Filip Chuchma, Pavel Zahradníček, Dalibor Janouš, Zdeněk Žalud, Martin Dubrovský, Pavel Kindlmann,, Zdeňka Křenová,, Milan Fischer,, Jakub Hruška,, Rudolf Brázdil

*Corresponding author:

ABSTRACT: Recent drought and a surge in days with weather conditions conducive to wildfire occurrence during 2015–2019 reminded the Czech Republic that it is not immune to this type of natural hazard. Although Central Europe has not been at the center of such events, observed climate data and climate projections suggest a tendency toward more years with wet and mild winters and dry and hot summers. To fill existing knowledge gap, we used an ensemble of 9 fuel aridity metrics, including 3 dedicated fire weather indices, and evaluated their level of agreement with actual fire occurrence and their temporal trends. The analysis included peri-urban zones of the 36 largest cities/towns in the Czech Republic (home of 3.8 million inhabitants) and the 29 largest protected areas (covering 13.7% of the territory). Fire weather climatology, based on both the Fire Weather Index and the Forest Fire Danger Index, agreed well with the long-term frequency of fires both in peri-urban zones and within protected areas. The future projections based on the regional and global model ensembles indicated a significant increase in fuel aridity and an increase in the area affected by fire-conducive conditions both around urban areas and within protected regions. In particular, the area affected by days with very high-risk fire weather conditions is likely to increase significantly relative to the past 60 years. However, the magnitude of the projected change depends to a large degree on the selected fire weather metric and whether RCM- or GCM-based scenarios are used.