Publications

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

Citation

Stavros, E.N., Abatzoglou, J., McKenzie, D., Larkin, N.  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, doi: 10.1007/s10584-014-1229-6.


Abstract

Seasonal changes in the climatic potential for very large wildfires (VLWF≥50,000ac ~ 20,234ha) A1:I702 the western contiguous United States are projected over the 21st century using generalized linear models and downscaled climate projections for two representative concentration pathways (RCPs). Significant ( p ≤ 0.05) increases in VLWF probability for climate of the mid-21st century (2031-2060) relative to contemporary climate are found, for both RCP 4.5 and 8.5. The largest differences are in the Eastern Great Basin, Northern Rockies, Pacific Northwest, Rocky Mountains, and Southwest. Changes in seasonality and frequency of VLWFs depend on changes in the future climate space. For example, flammability-limited areas such as the Pacific Northwest show that (with high model agreement) the frequency of weeks with VLWFs in a given year is 2-2.7 more likely. However, frequency of weeks with at least one VLWF in fuel-limited systems like the Western Great Basin is 1.3 times more likely (with low model agreement). Thus, areas where fire is directly associated with hot and dry climate, as opposed to experiencing lagged effects from previous years, experience more change in the likelihood of VLWF in future projections. The results provide a quantitative foundation for management to mitigate the effects of VLWFs.