A growing importance of large fires in conterminous United States during 1984-2012
Document Type: Journal Article
Author(s): J. Yang; H. Q. Tian; B. Tao; W. Ren; S. F. Pan; Y. Q. Liu; Yuhang Wang
Publication Year: 2015

Cataloging Information

  • Black Spruce Forests
  • burned area
  • Canadian Boreal Forest
  • carbon
  • climate change
  • climate change
  • combustion completeness
  • Ecosystem Carbon
  • fire frequency
  • fire intensity
  • fire management
  • fire size
  • forest management
  • Gulf-of-Mexico
  • Landsat Imagery
  • Mississippi River
  • Normalized Burn Ratio
  • Pyrogenic Carbon Emissions
  • remote sensing
  • Remote-Sensed Burn Severity
  • smoke management
  • Temporal Patterns
  • terrestrial ecosystems
  • wildfires
Record Maintained By:
Record Last Modified: October 6, 2020
FRAMES Record Number: 55117
Tall Timbers Record Number: 33037
TTRS Location Status: Not in file
TTRS Call Number: Available
TTRS Abstract Status: Fair use, Okay

This bibliographic record was either created or modified by the Tall Timbers Research Station and Land Conservancy and is provided without charge to promote research and education in Fire Ecology. The E.V. Komarek Fire Ecology Database is the intellectual property of the Tall Timbers Research Station and Land Conservancy.


Fire frequency, extent, and size exhibit a strong linkage with climate conditions and play a vital role in the climate system. Previous studies have shown that the frequency of large fires in the western United States increased significantly since the mid-1980s due to climate warming and frequent droughts. However, less work has been conducted to examine burned area and fire emissions of large fires at a national scale, and the underlying mechanisms accounting for the increases in the frequency of large fires are far from clear. In this study, we integrated remote-sensed fire perimeter and burn severity data sets into the Dynamic Land Ecosystem Model to estimate carbon emissions from large fires (i.e., fires with size larger than 1000 acres or 4.05 km2) in conterminous United States from 1984 to 2012. The results show that average area burned by large fires was 1.44x104 km2yr-1 and carbon emissions from large fires were 17.65TgCyr-1 during the study period. According to the Mann-Kendall trend test, annual burned area and pyrogenic carbon emissions presented significant upward trends at the rates of 810 km2yr-1 and 0.87TgCyr-1, respectively. Characteristic fire size (fire size with the largest contribution to the total burned area) in the period of 2004-2012 increased by 176.1% compared to the period of 1984-1993. We further found that the larger fires were associated with higher burn severity and occurred more frequently in the warmer and drier conditions. This finding implies that the continued warming and drying trends in the 21st century would enhance the total burned area and fire emissions due to the contributions of larger and more severe wildfires. © 2015. American Geophysical Union. All Rights Reserved.

Online Link(s):
Yang, J., H. Q. Tian, B. Tao, W. Ren, S. F. Pan, Y. Q. Liu, and Y. H. Wang. 2015. A growing importance of large fires in conterminous United States during 1984-2012. Journal of Geophysical Research-Biogeosciences, v. 120, no. 12, p. 2625-2640. 10.1002/2015JG002965.