Full Citation: Westerling, Anthony L.; Gershunov, Alexander; Cayan, Daniel R.; Barnett, Tim P. 2002. Long lead statistical forecasts of area burned in western U.S. wildfires by ecosystem province. International Journal of Wildland Fire 11(4):257-266.
External Identifier(s): 10.1071/WF02009 Digital Object Identifier
Location: Western U.S.
Ecosystem types: Aggregated by Bailey’s ecosystem provinces
Southwest FireCLIME Keywords: None
FRAMES Keywords: Arizona, chaparral, Colorado, coniferous forests, deserts, droughts, ecosystem dynamics, fire danger rating, fuel moisture, grasslands, habitat types, hydrology, Montana, Nevada, New Mexico, Oregon, prairies, seasonal activities, shrublands, soil moisture, statistical analysis, Utah, Washington, weather observations, wildfires, area burned, climatology, forecasting, PDSI - Palmer Drought Severity Index

Long lead statistical forecasts of area burned in western U.S. wildfires by ecosystem province

Anthony L. Westerling, Alexander Gershunov, Daniel R. Cayan, Tim P. Barnett


Summary - what did the authors do and why?

The authors model the relationship between seasonal area burned aggregated by Bailey’s ecosystem provinces and monthly U.S. Climatological Division Palmer Drought Severity Index (PDSI) to forecast area burned a season in advance.


Publication findings:

The authors found that, generally, in shrub- and grassland-dominated ecosystems, there was a strong relationship between area burned and increased moisture in the year before the fire season, suggesting these systems are fuel limited and only burn after moisture (inferred from PDSI) increases fuel production. For open-canopy forests, they found a strong relationship between area burned and decreased moisture immediately prior or during the fire season, suggesting that the moisture conditions of the heavier fuels drive fire activity.

Climate and Fire Linkages

The authors found that, generally, in shrub- and grassland-dominated ecosystems, there was a strong relationship between area burned and increased moisture in the year before the fire season, suggesting these systems are fuel limited and only burn after moisture (inferred from PDSI) increases fuel production. For open-canopy forests, they found a strong relationship between area burned and decreased moisture immediately prior or during the fire season, suggesting that the moisture conditions of the heavier fuels drive fire activity.