This Just In…Heat from Wildfires Does Not Directly Attribute to Soil Damage California Inferno
A group of scientists recently played with fire and found that hot fires do not necessary scorch or damage surface soil.
Their experiment found that the hotter the fire – and the denser the vegetation feeding the flames – the less the underlying soil heated up. Surprising since naturally wildfires, can and often do, leave soil burned and barren. What the scientists found instead was that soil temperature was most impacted by the speed of the fire, the direction of heat travel, and the terrain’s initial moisture content.
The findings will hopefully direct forest managers in pinpointing future areas to conduct safer and smarter controlled burns.
Claims Journal article excerpt, April 25, 2013: “Vegetation is fuel, so the areas with more vegetation had more intense fire. But the heavily vegetated regions were also more moist, which protected the soil. The areas with the hottest soil temperatures were in direct sunlight and had sparse, dry vegetation. Because it’s already dried out, it doesn’t have the moisture shield that more densely vegetated areas have to preserve the soil. Fires moving fast will quickly burn up all the vegetation and also have little effect on the soil, but slow-moving fires will have much more time to heat up the soil and burn up its organic matter and seeds.” – Source
All things considered, the fire experimentation will at least question existing theories for soil heating and hopefully ignite the entire fire science community to reconfirm, refute, or at least retest the experiment.
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