Trends in regional fire cycles for Alaska, 1943-2016, were analyzed by Thomas Paragi, Alaska Department of Fish & Game, Maija Wehmas, Alaska Fire Science Consortium, and David Verbyla, University of Alaska Fairbanks
The methodology/figures/tables, GIS data and Python scripts, and research brief summary are available in the links below.
Abstract: Understanding of the extent and frequency of wildland fires informs protection of human infrastructure and management of renewable resources, such as wildlife habitat features. Gabriel and Tande (1983) analyzed fire cycle (years required to burn a defined area) during 1957-1979 to understand differences among defined areas of physiography (2 scales), weather forecasting, and fire management planning. Improvements in fire detection and perimeter mapping since the 1960s now permit calculation of fire regime parameters over several decades. In recent decades Alaska has experienced changes in fire regime coincident with a warming climate. We analyzed fire cycle during 1943-2016 for burns of lightning ignition over a 29-year historic period and three 17-year periods. We used the same analysis areas from the earlier study to discern trends since 1969 for areas with at least 10 fires in all three 17-year periods. We found substantial spatial variation in fire cycle and percentage area burned among smaller areas examined with apparent trends toward shorter fire cycle (more frequent burning) in the central and eastern Interior and longer fire cycle (less frequent burning) in northwest Alaska. These trends can inform periodic review of fire management options guiding initial response and spatial priority in managing hazardous fuels.