Table Mountain fire as a result of climate change

A new study has shown that climate change was a major factor in the wildfire that raged through Cape Town’s Table Mountain area between the 18th and 20th of April in 2021.

The study, conducted by Zhongwei Liu, Lead Author from the University of Coventry, found that climate models suggest similar wildfires are “90% more likely in a warmer world”.

Following a human-induced ignition on the morning of 18 April, worsening weather conditions led to rapid fire spread that lasted until the afternoon of 20th April when the fire was eventually extinguished, after having burned through more than 600 hectares of wildland.

Speaking on the nature of the fast spread of the wildfire, Liu added: “Weather and climate have a critical influence on when wildfires become dangerous and destructive.”

On the 18th April, when the fire started, the local weather was the worst Cape Town had experienced in over 40 years, following three weeks of abnormally warm and dry conditions.

As the climate continues to worsen, questions about the future of wildfires are being raised.

Liu added: “[…] with the volume of people moving around the mountain, ignitions are essentially inevitable. Couple this with warming and drying weather patterns and the question is when – not if – another big wildfire will threaten the urban fringe around the mountain again.”

As researchers analysed weather patterns, they found that the same fire weather conditions as experienced in April 2021, would “very likely” re-occur in the future.

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