On-going changes in drought, vegetation and wildfires in Israel provide a key example of possible future evolution in transition areas at the border between Mediterranean and arid climates. Here we present multiple lines of evidence suggesting that drought conditions in Israel, representing the eastern Mediterranean, have increased during the period 1980–2014. Drought conditions were calculated using the Standardized Precipitation Evapotranspiration Index (SPEI), the Standardized Precipitation Index (SPI) and the Standardized Soil Moisture Index (SSI). A 30-year series (1982–2011) of monthly Fraction of Photosynthetically Active Radiation absorbed by vegetation (FPAR) indicates generally positive trends in winter and spring and negative ones in summer and autumn, except in the transition zone between the southern Negev desert and the Mediterranean climate region, where a statistically significant negative trend in all seasons was found. Available ground observations suggest that fire activity has decreased during the period 1987–2011. Apparent year-to-year oscillations are superposed onto these long-term trends. We show that inter-annual variability of summer fires is related to antecedent wet conditions and to above normal vegetation conditions. These relationships suggest the summer fires in Israel are mainly limited by fuel availability rather than by fuel flammability. On the other hand, the year-to-year variations of spring and autumn fires are significantly related with drought indices. Thus, the increase of drought conditions together with climate projections for further warming and drying in this region, point at a potential increase of fire risk in the intermediate seasons.
Bibliographical noteFunding Information:
This work was supported by the Italian project of Interest “NextData” of the Italian Ministry for Education, University and Research, by the European Science Foundation within the framework of COST FP1204 (linking environmental with social aspects in studying and managing urban forests) and by the Israel Science Foundation (ISF, grant no. 597/13). Special thanks are devoted to the JNF for providing the forest fire data.
© 2016 Elsevier B.V.
- Climate change
- Drought indices
- Forest and wildfire