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 Climate and Fire Interactions

How do temperature, relative humidity and vapor pressure deficit relate to fire severity?

Can land management buffer impacts of climate changes and altered fire regimes on ecosystems of the Southwestern United States?

The FireBGCv2 model in the Jemez mountains projected an increase in fire frequency and high-severity fire due to the predicted increases in temperature and moisture deficit.


Citation:
Loehman, Rachel; Flatley, Will; Holsinger, Lisa; Thode, Andrea. 2018. Can land management buffer impacts of climate changes and altered fire regimes on ecosystems of the Southwestern United States? Forests 9(4):192.


What drives low-severity fire in the southwestern USA?

The presence of live fuel was the most influential factor in predicting low-severity fire followed by year-of-fire climate. Low severity fire also increased as temperatures and the climatic moisture deficit decreased. Topography and longer-term climate factors were not important predictors of low-severity fire.


Citation:
Parks, Sean A.; Dobrowski, Solomon Z.; Panunto, Matthew H. 2018. What drives low-severity fire in the southwestern USA? Forests 9(4):165.


Post-fire vegetation and fuel development influences fire severity patterns in reburns

Average daytime temperature was the most important predictor of high severity fire in the reburn. When temperatures exceeded a threshold of >27.3°C (81°F), snag basal area and shrub cover were the strongest variable driving reburn severity patterns.


Citation:
Coppoletta, Michelle; Merriam, Kyle E.; Collins, Brandon M. 2016. Post-fire vegetation and fuel development influences fire severity patterns in reburns. Ecological Applications 26(3):686-699.


Correlations between components of the water balance and burned area reveal new insights for predicting forest fire area in the southwest United States

March through August VPD, a measure of the ability of the atmosphere to extract moisture from surface vegetation, is more strongly correlated with area burned at high severity than temperature alone for the Southwest region.


Citation:
Williams, A. Park; Seager, Richard; Macalady, Alison K.; Berkelhammer, Max; Crimmins, Michael A.; Swetnam, Thomas W.; Trugman, Anna T.; Buenning, Nikolaus; Noone, David; McDowell, Nate G.; Hryniw, Natalia; Mora, Claudia I.; Rahn, Thom. 2015. Correlations between components of the water balance and burned area reveal new insights for predicting forest fire area in the southwest United States. International Journal of Wildland Fire 24(1):14-26.


Climatic and landscape influences on fire regimes from 1984 to 2010 in the western United States

Large fire occurrence was highly synchronous across broad spatial scales and significantly correlated to short-term climate anomalies. Specifically, precipitation anomalies 90 days prior to the fire had the strongest influence on large fire occurrence and percent high severity fire more than temperature or relative humidity.


Citation:
Liu, Zhihua; Wimberly, Michael C. 2015. Climatic and landscape influences on fire regimes from 1984 to 2010 in the western United States. PLoS ONE 10(10):e0140839.


Vegetation, topography and daily weather influenced burn severity in central Idaho and western Montana forests

The optimized Random Forest model found that vegetation and topography were stronger predictors of burn severity than daily weather. Temperature and humidity were only marginally important. Wind speed percentile was, however, the strongest climate/weather predictor of fire severity (and third strongest predictor overall) for daily areas burned when considering only the largest daily areas burned (99.5% percentile or > 600 ha) while temperature and humidity were not important in this model at all. The authors suggest that the factors influencing fire severity are not necessarily the same as those that control fire extent.


Citation:
Birch, Donovan S.; Morgan, Penelope; Kolden, Crystal A.; Abatzoglou, John T.; Dillon, Gregory K.; Hudak, Andrew T.; Smith, Alistair M. S. 2015. Vegetation, topography and daily weather influenced burn severity in central Idaho and western Montana forests. Ecosphere 6(1):art17.


Fire activity and severity in the western US vary along proxy gradients representing fuel amount and fuel moisture

The authors found that fire activity/area burned and fire severity across the western US increased with increasing actual evapotranspiration (AET) which represented fuel amount in the study. Fire severity decreased with increasing water deficit.


Citation:
Parks, Sean A.; Parisien, Marc-André; Miller, Carol L.; Dobrowski, Solomon Z. 2014. Fire activity and severity in the western US vary along proxy gradients representing fuel amount and fuel moisture. PLoS ONE 9(6):e99699.


Global wildland fire season severity in the 21st century

The authors found significant increases in the fire severity across all global climate model scenarios by the end of the century likely due to the role temperature plays in fire occurrence and severity. Global fire severity was expected to increases the greatest in the Northern Hemisphere by as much as three times the baseline Cumulative Severity Rating.


Citation:
Flannigan, Michael D.; Cantin, Alan S.; de Groot, William J.; Wotton, B. Michael; Newbery, Alison; Gowman, Lynn M. 2013. Global wildland fire season severity in the 21st century. Forest Ecology and Management 294:54-61.


Both topography and climate affected forest and woodland burn severity in two regions of the western US, 1984 to 2006

The authors found that topography had a stronger influence on burn severity than climate (temperature and precipitation), but that climate before and during the fire was still a significant predictor of burn severity. The authors suggest that climate conditions can overwhelm topographic limitations on area burned and fire severity during dry years with widespread fire. 


Citation:
Dillon, Gregory K.; Holden, Zachary A.; Morgan, Penelope; Crimmins, Michael A.; Heyerdahl, Emily K.; Luce, Charles H. 2011. Both topography and climate affected forest and woodland burn severity in two regions of the western US, 1984 to 2006. Ecosphere 2(12):art130.


Changes in fire severity across gradients of climate, fire size, and topography: a landscape ecological perspective

For the Cerro Grande fire, which occurred during an extreme La Niña event, topography had a stronger influence on reducing severity in some areas than the regional effects of climate. Conversely, on several of the fires, topography conducive to fire spread did not produce increased severity, and temperature and wind had a stronger influence on fire effects.


Citation:
Haire, Sandra L.; McGarigal, Kevin. 2009. Changes in fire severity across gradients of climate, fire size, and topography: a landscape ecological perspective. Fire Ecology 5(2):86-103.


Fire-induced erosion and millennial-scale climate change in northern ponderosa pine forests

The authors found that during historically cooler periods, forests burned frequently at low severity, which they suggest was driven by increases in understory vegetation growth. Historically warm periods were linked to severe drought and an increase in high severity fires that caused large debris-flow events and fire-related erosion.


Citation:
Pierce, Jennifer L.; Meyer, Grant A.; Jull, A. J. Timothy. 2004. Fire-induced erosion and millennial-scale climate change in northern ponderosa pine forests. Nature 432(7013):87-90.


The interaction of fire, fuels, and climate across Rocky Mountain forests

The authors summarized findings on high-severity fire regimes in subalpine forests and found that climatic variation is the predominant influence on fire frequency and severity in this ecosystem type and suggest that fuel reduction treatments would move stand structure away from its historical range of variability. For low severity fire regimes in low-elevation ponderosa pine forest, the authors found that fire frequency and severity were driven by the spatial and temporal variation of fine fuels more so than climate.


Citation:
Schoennagel, Tania; Veblen, Thomas T.; Romme, William H. 2004. The interaction of fire, fuels, and climate across Rocky Mountain forests. Bioscience 54(7):661-676.


Climate change and forest fires

The authors’ modeling effort found that seasonal severity rating (SSR) may increase 10-50% by 2060 likely increasing area burned and fire severity across much of the U.S.


Citation:
Flannigan, Michael D.; Stocks, Brian J.; Wotton, B. Michael. 2000. Climate change and forest fires. Science of The Total Environment 262(3):221-229.