Sweden Sweden Sweden Sweden

Forest fires Sweden

Vulnerabilities - Current situation

Forest fire risk in Sweden is limited, compared with other countries. The total annually burnt area of forest has not exceeded 5000 ha since 1950s for most years (2). During the 20th and 21st centuries, the levels of fire activity remained low with 3000 to 4000 fires burning around 2000 to 5000 ha annually (4).

An analysis of the occurrence and size of forest fires in Sweden from 1998 to 2017 suggests a strong human influence on fire occurrence: road and population density were positively associated with fire occurrence, suggesting an important role of human-related ignitions. Fire size seems to be mainly controlled by the climate (variability). Road and population density showed a negative association with fire size, possibly indicating higher efficiency of fire suppression in the areas with higher human presence (3). 

The summer of 2018 in Sweden was characterized by numerous large forest fires spread over large parts of the country. The high temperature and lack of precipitation resulted in high forest fire risk over the whole of Scandinavia. Especially in Sweden, this gave rise to numerous forest fires, with a total burnt area of more than 20,000 ha. No significant effect was found of climate change on the occurrence of these 2018 fires (7). 

Vulnerabilities - Future projections

Future projections of changes in forest fire risk have been made for northern and southern Sweden, based on a regional climate model and the intermediate A1B climate change scenario. According to these results, northern Sweden is likely to be a fire-resistant region in the future climate (until 2100) where the number of days with high fire risk is found to be lower than today. In contrast, southern Sweden is projected to become a more fire-prone region with an increased number of days with a high fire risk (2).

In northern Sweden, especially autumn is found to become more prone to forest fire. This is mainly due to the increase of temperature and wind speed. For summer, today’s main fire risk season, the projected moister air, increased precipitation and relatively stabilised wind speed balance out the effect of the warmer climate (2).

In southern Sweden, the most fire-prone season in future is likely to be summer, where less precipitation, warmer temperatures and higher wind speeds are projected. Until 2100, the fire risk in summer is projected to increase by 20% as the climate in the distant future becomes drier, warmer and windier (2). 

Adaptation strategies

The low annual burned area of the forest in Sweden so far proves that there was an efficient application of fire suppression policies (3).

Most likely, forest fires are set to increase. Preventive measures will become increasingly important. These include both communicating restrictions regarding the lighting of fires and ensuring that these restrictions are complied with. It may also be necessary to refrain from certain forestry measures during extremely dry periods. Fire monitoring is a central task for which resources should be guaranteed in the future as well, as the early discovery of fires is decisive as regards the speed with which they can be put out and the level of resources required (1).

Moreover, Sweden and other countries in Northern Europe should draw benefit from experiences in southern Europe, and develop operational preparedness and capacity by planning, participating in and contributing resources to international co-operation to a greater extent. Collaboration with eastern European countries should also be strengthened, as their climate and forest conditions in many cases resemble those found in Sweden (1).


The references below are cited in full in a separate map 'References'. Please click here if you are looking for the full references for Sweden.

  1. Swedish Commission on Climate and Vulnerability (2007)
  2. Yang et al. (2015)
  3. Pinto et al. (2020)
  4. Granström (1993); Drobyshev et al. (2012); National Knowledge Centre for Climate Change Adaptation (2016), in: Pinto et al. (2020)
  5. Stocks et al. (2002), in: Pinto et al. (2020)
  6. Ubysz and Szczygieł (2006); Catry et al. (2009); Martínez et al. (2009); Syphard et al. (2017); Adámek et al. (2018); Sjöström et al. (2019), all in: Pinto et al. (2020)
  7. Krikken et al. (2021)