Flame Game: A Podcast About Controlled Burns
Episode 4: Controlled Burns, Climate Change, and YOU
Featuring Dr. Dave Robinson

Now that we’ve explored what controlled burns are, the history of them connected with Native Americans, and how they’re researched in a lab, the final piece of the puzzle is large-scale impact of controlled burns. In episode four, I meet with Dr. Dave Robinson, the New Jersey state climatologist, to discuss the impact climate change is having on our forests and how controlled burns can help to reduce those effects. Trees and forests are an important aspect of the carbon cycle and storing greenhouse gases made up of carbon. By removing plants that are suffocating those trees, fires open the canopy for fire adapted-trees to get more light. By removing the organic litter on the floor of the forests, fires also prevent large-scale and out-of-control wildfires that are the ones that harm fire-adapted trees (since they can’t be managed), but also human infrastructure. The goal is to keep the fire-adapted trees living as long as possible because as long as they live they are taking in carbon from the atmosphere and storing it, but once they die, all of that carbon gets released back into the environment again. Keeping these trees alive prevents this release of carbon and helps to remove greenhouse gases and lessen the effects of climate change. Dr. Robinson helps to describe this, but also to describe how his work as a climatologist connects him to burn managers in unique ways, and that more sectors of science and technology could help to inform controlled burns in their own ways.

While there is a lot more that can be said and explained about controlled burns, these four podcasts encapsulate the most important things you should know about controlled burns and how interconnected they are with different people, processes, and environments.

Learn more about what the Office of the New Jersey State Climatologist does. 

You can also read here about how climate change is decreasing the fire window for controlled burns.

And since controlled burns release less carbon than wildfires, they can help lower our carbon footprint.