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 Climate and Fire Interactions

How do snowpack and precipitation (snow/rain) relate to fire frequency, rotation, and return interval?

Future fire probability modeling with climate change data and physical chemistry

Predictions for each of the climate models diverged for the southwestern U.S. The CGCM data resulted in decreased future fire probability (0 to ?30%) while the GFDL data resulted in increased fire probability (near 0 to greater than 40%). The authors suggest this discrepancy is due to the limitations in predicting precipitation and moisture conditions and their effect on fuel production.

Citation:
Guyette, Richard P.; Thompson, Frank R.; Whittier, Jodi; Stambaugh, Michael C.; Dey, Daniel C. 2014. Future fire probability modeling with climate change data and physical chemistry. Forest Science 60(5):862-870.

Climate change in western US deserts: potential for increased wildfire and invasive annual grasses

CGM models in this study project winter precipitation to continue to decrease across the warm deserts in the study area and an increase in the annual mean temperature by 2.5-3°C by the middle of the 21st century. This future climate change is likely to increase the potential for megafires across the Southwest by increasing the frequency of weather conditions conducive to extreme fire activity, especially an increase in temperature and decrease in corresponding precipitation and humidity indicators. Along with the predicted changes in temperature and precipitation, periods of extreme fire danger are expected to increase by one to three weeks across these areas leading to the occurrence of active fire seasons every fifth year to every other year.

Citation:
Abatzoglou, John T.; Kolden, Crystal A. 2011. Climate change in western US deserts: potential for increased wildfire and invasive annual grasses. Rangeland Ecology & Management 64(5):471-478.

Changes in forest structure of a mixed conifer forest, southwestern Colorado, USA

The authors found an increase in fire area burned in the mixed-conifer stand when dry years were preceded by one or two wet years resulting in an accumulation of fuels.

Citation:
Fulé, Peter Z.; Korb, Julie E.; Wu, Rosalind. 2009. Changes in forest structure of a mixed conifer forest, southwestern Colorado, USA. Forest Ecology and Management 258(7):1200-1210.

Holocene vegetation and fire regimes in subalpine and mixed conifer forests, southern Rocky Mountains, USA

Drier conditions were likely at these forests in the mid-Holocene followed by a period of greater winter precipitation and warmer temperatures associated with ENSO. Synchronous fire episode frequency occurred between approximately 12,000 and 9,000 years before present and approximately 2,000 to 1,000 years before present. The authors suggest that the first period was associated with increased biomass and lightning ignitions due to climate change while the second was due to persistent drought with intermittent wetter periods providing conditions for increased fire activity.

Citation:
Anderson, R. Scott; Allen, Craig D.; Toney, Jaime L.; Jass, R.B.; Bair, A.N. 2008. Holocene vegetation and fire regimes in subalpine and mixed conifer forests, southern Rocky Mountains, USA. International Journal of Wildland Fire 17(1):96-114.

Warming and earlier spring increase western U.S. forest wildfire activity

The interannual variability in wildfire frequency had a strong relationship with the timing of spring snowmelt.

Citation:
Westerling, Anthony L.; Hidalgo, H.G.; Cayan, Daniel R.; Swetnam, Thomas W. 2006. Warming and earlier spring increase western U.S. forest wildfire activity. Science 313(5789):940-943.

Fire cycles in North American interior grasslands and their relation to prairie drought

The authors found that fire frequency was not consistent during the Holocene, but that fire activity was driven by short-term climatic cycles. Wetter periods were associated with higher fire occurrence due to the increase in available vegetation, whereas dry periods were associated with less dense vegetation and therefore, less fire activity.

Citation:
Brown, Kendrick J.; Clark, James S.; Grimm, Eric C.; Donovan, J.J.; Mueller, Pietra G.; Hansen, Barry C. S.; Stefanova, Ivanka. 2005. Fire cycles in North American interior grasslands and their relation to prairie drought. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America 102(25):8865-8870.

Climate and disturbance forcing of episodic tree recruitment in a southwestern ponderosa pine landscape

Successful regeneration pulses occurred when conditions were less conducive to fire, such as during periods of increased precipitation or during cycles of El Niño, which are typically wet. Synchronous fire years typically occurred during La Niña years following a one to three year wet period.

Citation:
Brown, Peter M.; Wu, Rosalind. 2005. Climate and disturbance forcing of episodic tree recruitment in a southwestern ponderosa pine landscape. Ecology 86(11):3030-3038.

Fire history along environmental gradients in the Sacramento Mountains, New Mexico: influences of local patterns and regional processes

The authors found synchrony of fire occurrence across the region when dry years were proceeded by wet years. Strong El Niño events associated with especially wet years suppressed fire regionally, but also resulted in a pulse of fine fuel growth which became the primary fuels for surface fire during drought years. The authors found that at local scales, however, topography and elevation had a stronger influence on fire frequency and pattern than climate.

Citation:
Brown, P. M., M. W. Kaye, L. S. Huckaby, and C. H. Baisan. 2001. Fire history along environmental gradients in the Sacramento Mountains, New Mexico: influences of local patterns and regional processes. Ecoscience, v. 8, no. 1, p. 115-126.

Late Glacial and Holocene vegetation history and paleoclimate of the Kaibab Plateau, Arizona

Fire was relatively rare at both sites between approximately 12,000-10,600 cal yr B.P. Most of this period was cool and relatively wet, which likely suppressed fire occurrence.

Citation:
Weng, Chengyu; Jackson, Stephen T. 1999. Late Glacial and Holocene vegetation history and paleoclimate of the Kaibab Plateau, Arizona. Palaeogeography, Palaeoclimatology, Palaeoecology 153(1-4):179-201.