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Disentangling the Anthropogenic Impact on Extreme Wildlife Conditions

Danielle Touma, Postdoctoral Scholar, Bren School

Apr 27 2020 | 11:00am to 12:00pm Pacific Online

Smiling woman standing in front of colorful background
Danielle Touma

Danielle’s work combines atmospheric dynamics with hydrology and wildfires in order to offer insightful observations on the extreme events that come with climate change. Her presentation is extremely relevant for those of us living in California that experience alarming fire events first hand, and we are excited to have her present as a member of our Bren community at the first virtual seminar.  — Rachel Torres, Bren School PhD Student

Abstract

In 2018, California experienced its deadliest fire season to date, with 100 fatalities and almost two million acres burnt. One year later, Australia suffered an unprecedented wildfire season with tens of fatalities and thousands of lost homes. These recent events are part of a multi-decadal trend in global wildfire severity and area, largely driven by human activities. Anthropogenic climate change modifies the spatial and temporal patterns of drought, while fire and land management have altered vegetation and hydrologic conditions. In this seminar, I disentangle the roles of greenhouse gas and aerosol emissions in modifying the risk of weather conditions that enable extreme wildfire occurrence and spread. By leveraging a suite of new global climate model experiments, I show that historical greenhouse gas emissions have increased the risk of extreme wildfire conditions in recent decades, and could double this risk in many wildfire-prone regions by the end of the 21st century. While aerosols have generally dampened the risk of extreme wildfire conditions in the past, their effect is diminished and more localized in future projections. My research provides key insight into the observed and projected changes in global wildfire risk and has significant implications for mitigation and adaptation strategies.

Bio

Danielle Touma is a postdoctoral scholar at the Bren School of Environmental Science and Management advised by Dr. Samantha Stevenson. Danielle’s research advances our understanding of the mechanisms in which anthropogenic activities impact extreme hydroclimate events. She leverages a multitude of regional and global hydroclimate datasets, derived from direct observations and numerical modeling, to investigate spatiotemporal variations in extreme precipitation, drought, and wildfire. Danielle also enjoys mentoring and teaching K-12 and university STEM students through various outreach capacities. Danielle received her PhD from Stanford University in Earth System Science in 2019, and completed her M.S (2011) and B.S. (2009) degrees in Civil and Environmental Engineering from NC State University.