What is Forest Fire and How Does It Affected By Weather and Human Activities?

Climate Change has affected our lives at large in more than one way. Prominently, the exquisite forests of our planet have been agonizing due to the radical changes in the weather conditions. Forest fire is not a contemporary phenomenon, and they’re as old as the forest themselves.

However, the recent climatic changes have been adversely affecting the nature of the forests, subsequently igniting the forest.

What is Forest Fire

Forest Fire or Wildfire is an uncontrolled fire that mostly occurs during the summertime when due to low or no rainfall, the dry leaves burst into flames by coming into contact with a spark.

forest fire

This phenomenon can lead to a large-scale fire in the forest that is hard and almost impossible to extinguish by human efforts. They have posed a major threat to not only the forests themselves but also the diverse Flora and Fauna inhabiting the forest. You must have heard about the recent wildfires in Australia and how it affected the animals living there.

You may think that the prevention of such a Natural Disaster is out of the hands of the humans as our efforts would be able to neither prevent it nor extinguish it. This mindset is completely incorrect and ignorant. Wildfires are caused by humans as much as it is caused by nature. Let’s understand.

Causes of Forest Fire

Forest Fires can be caused by Nature and Man alike.

  • Natural means: Natural phenomena such as lightning can ignite the trees that can spread on a massive scale and take the form of the forest fire. Weather conditions such as high atmospheric pressure and low humidity can also contribute to favorable conditions for wildfire.
  • Man-made means: Human actions such as starting a fire in the middle of a dry forest, extinguishing cigarettes, usage of any inflammable object in the forest may contribute to the onset of a wildfire.
causes of forest fire

These are some of the obvious and short-term man-made causes which can be prevented by utter caution, but are these the only way humans can favor a wildfire? No. We humans have been contributing to the worsening condition of our ailing planet since the advent of the Industrial Revolution.

Since then, human and Industrial activity has done everything to augment the agony of our planet. Let us break down and understand how weather creates favorable conditions for forest fires and how human beings contribute to such weather conditions. 

How does the Weather Affects Forest Fire

The cause of Forest Fire is primarily the weather conditions. Weather conditions start the forest fire, weather conditions maintain the Forest Fire, and weather conditions extinguish the forest fire.

As I mentioned before, it is the dry leaves, bushes, or trees in the forest that catches fire first. What could be the cause for the leaves to be dry? That’s right, drought. Drought or low rainfall is one of the fundamental elements that create favorable conditions for forest fires. The weather condition can also envelop the whole forest into its wrath and leave nothing behind but destruction.

Centrally, three elements of weather can start and maintain a forest fire:

  • Temperature
  • Wind
  • Moisture


For a forest fire, a petty fire should occur, and for the petty fire to take place, there should be adequate heat. The dry trees, shrubs, leaves, bushes on the surface area receive sun’s radiation, which can heat these probable fuels and cause them to burst into flames.

The warm temperature accelerates the rate of ignition of the potential fuels and pushes them to burn quicker, and on a wider scale, this leads to a colossal spread of the fire. The warm the temperature, the wide and extensive the fire is going to be. This is why noontime is an ideal time for forest fires to occur and spread when the temperatures are at their highest.


Fires need oxygen to remain alive. This is where the wind comes in. The moving air, that is, the wind supplies adequate oxygen to the fire and causes it to burn more fiercely and for a long period.

wind changes the direction of forest fire

wind changes the direction of forest fire

It also dries up other probable fuels and extends the scale of the fire, even more, the spread of the fire accelerates, and the spread becomes wider. The contribution of wind is as perilous as the fire itself. The stronger the wind blows, the faster the fire spreads.


Moisture, on the other hand, serves as a countermeasure to the forest fire. Remember how I said weather conditions are also responsible for extinguishing the fire. 

Moisture is the suspended water vapor in the air, and in the form of humidity and precipitation, moisture can reduce the spread of the fire.

forest fire rain

Forest Fire Cools Down After Rain

Potential fuels catch fire due to their dryness. If the humidity makes these fuels moist, they cannot be ignited because the moisture negates the heat of the fire. The ambient humidity determines whether there is going to be an intense fire or not.

When the ambient humidity is low, that is, when the amount of water vapor suspended in the air is low, the wildfires are more likely to occur as the absorbing element of the heat is low in the air. Similarly, when the humidity is high, that is, when the water vapor in the air is high, the heat can be easily absorbed, and the forest fires can be kept at bay.

Moisture can reduce the probability of a wildfire. Consequently, it is the precipitation that determines whether or not a wildfire will occur. Rain makes sure that the forest is not dry and, subsequently, do not ignite the fuels due to the sun’s radiation. 

So far, we have learned how weather conditions affect the occurrence of wildfires or forest fires. How do we humans affect it? While weather conditions have a direct impact on wildfires, human activities have an indirect impact.

How does Human Activities Affect Forest Fire

You must have heard of Global Warming. Global warming refers to the exponential increase in the average temperature of the Earth. Since the Industrial Revolution, the average temperature of Earth has increased tremendously. How does it Increase the Earth's Temperature? It is because of greenhouse effect.

global warming

When the sun’s radiations hit the Earth, some of the sun’s energy gets trapped in the Earth’s atmosphere instead of bouncing back to space, causing the earth to become warm. This is the greenhouse effect. Water vapor, Carbon Dioxide, Methane, Nitrous Oxide, Chlorofluorocarbon, Ozone are gases that contribute to the Greenhouse effect. If these gases were absent from the atmosphere, the average temperature of Earth would be significantly low, making it inhabitable for human beings.

Similarly, if the average temperature was significantly high, the planet will not be able to sustain life. Human activities are contributing to the latter by releasing the harmful pollutants and increasing the concentration of greenhouse gases in the air leading to more and more sun’s radiation to be trapped in the atmosphere thus, making Earth considerably warmer.

Industrial activities emit an unprecedented amount of carbon in the atmosphere, which contributes to the greenhouse effect. The day-to-day activities of human beings are not helping us treat the planet any more than the industries. This carbon emission is what causes the planet to become warm. The meat consumption by human beings releases methane pollutants, which is one of the greenhouse gases.

It is the exponential rise in the average temperature that is making the Earth so warm and thus, causing wildfires. This is how humans have been affecting the Wildfires indirectly, yet playing a more prominent role. 


Forests are possibly the most important gift of nature. They make life on Earth sustainable not only for human beings but also for the diverse kingdom of Flora and Fauna. They should be conserved and grown as much as possible if humans wish to inhabit the planet for a long time.

Thus, it is important to minimize all those activities which could cause our precious forests to be obliterated from the face of the Earth. Individual efforts can lead to the conservation of the forests tremendously. All we need is enlightenment and efforts.

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About the Author


I am Tim, a weather enthusiast who loves to watch hurricanes and all other harsh weather conditions. I studied B.Sc(Meteorology) at the University of Miami. With excellent knowledge of Weather Forecasting, Meteorology, and Environmental Science, I am currently working in San Francisco as a Meteorologist. Also, I am a member of The Weather Channel and AccuWeather. In this blog, I will write a detailed review of Weather instruments that you need for survival and other activities.