Full Citation: Stavros, E. Natasha; Abatzoglou, John T.; McKenzie, Donald; Larkin, Narasimhan K. 2014. Regional projections of the likelihood of very large wildland fires under a changing climate in the contiguous western United States. Climatic Change 126(3-4):455-468.
External Identifier(s): 10.1007/s10584-014-1229-6 Digital Object Identifier
Location: Western U.S.; Geographic Area Coord. Centers (GACC): Southern California (SCAL), Northern California (NCAL), Pacific Northwest (PNW), Northern Rockies (NROCK), Rocky Mountains (RM), Western Great Basin (WGB), Eastern Great Basin (EGB), Southwest (SW)
Ecosystem types: None
Southwest FireCLIME Keywords: None
FRAMES Keywords: catastrophic fires, fire frequency, fire size, wildfires, climate change, fire management, forest management, FERA - Fire and Environmental Research Applications Team, generalized linear models, large wildfires

Regional projections of the likelihood of very large wildland fires under a changing climate in the contiguous western United States

E. Natasha Stavros, John T. Abatzoglou, Donald McKenzie, Narasimhan K. Larkin


Summary - what did the authors do and why?

The authors examined the future likelihood of occurrence and potential changes in the seasonal window for very large wildfires (VLF, >50,000 ac) based on an ensemble of 14 downscaled global climate projections and two representative concentration pathways. They looked at the effects of specific climate predictors on very large wildfire potential through the 21st century.


Publication findings:

The authors found an increased probability of very large wildfires across all of the GACCs in the contiguous U.S. by 2060. The strongest changes in the likelihood of very large wildfires were in areas where fire is a direct result of hot and dry climate conditions versus those regions where fire is driven by lagged climate effects.

The authors found an increase in the future probability of very large fire (VLF, >50,000 ac) occurrence and frequency under both representative concentration pathways (RCP) 4.5 and 8.5. Areas where fire is directly tied to hotter and drier conditions, or non-fuel limited ecosystems, were more likely to experience an increase in the likelihood of VLFs than areas that typically burn due to lagged effects of temperature and precipitation, typically fuel-limited ecosystems.

Climate and Fire Linkages

The authors found an increase in the future probability of very large fire (VLF, >50,000 ac) occurrence and frequency under both representative concentration pathways (RCP) 4.5 and 8.5 for all GACCs in the contiguous Western U.S. by 2060. Areas where fire is directly tied to hotter and drier conditions, or non-fuel limited ecosystems, were more likely to experience an increase in the likelihood of VLFs than areas that typically burn due to lagged effects of temperature and precipitation, typically fuel-limited ecosystems.

The authors found an increase in the future probability of very large fire (VLF, >50,000 ac) occurrence and frequency under both representative concentration pathways (RCP) 4.5 and 8.5 for all GACCs in the contiguous Western U.S. by 2060. Areas where fire is directly tied to hotter and drier conditions, or non-fuel limited ecosystems, were more likely to experience an increase in the likelihood of VLFs than areas that typically burn due to lagged effects of temperature and precipitation, typically fuel-limited ecosystems.