CSIRO Publishing blank image blank image blank image blank imageBooksblank image blank image blank image blank imageJournalsblank image blank image blank image blank imageAbout Usblank image blank image blank image blank imageShopping Cartblank image blank image blank image You are here: Journals > International Journal of Wildland Fire   
International Journal of Wildland Fire
  Journal of the International Association of Wildland Fire
blank image Search
blank image blank image
blank image
  Advanced Search

Journal Home
About the Journal
Editorial Structure
Online Early
Current Issue
Just Accepted
All Issues
Special Issues
Research Fronts
Sample Issue
20-Year Author Index
For Authors
General Information
Submit Article
Author Instructions
Open Access
For Referees
Referee Guidelines
Review an Article
For Subscribers
Subscription Prices
Customer Service
Print Publication Dates
Library Recommendation

blue arrow e-Alerts
blank image
Subscribe to our Email Alert or RSS feeds for the latest journal papers.

red arrow Connect with CP
blank image
facebook twitter logo LinkedIn

red arrow Connect with IAWF
blank image
facebook twitter LinkedIn


Article << Previous     |     Next >>   Contents Vol 24(7)

Climate change presents increased potential for very large fires in the contiguous United States

R. Barbero A D, J. T. Abatzoglou A, N. K. Larkin B, C. A. Kolden A and B. Stocks C

A Department of Geography, University of Idaho, 875 Perimeter Drive MS3021, Moscow, ID 83844-3021, USA.
B Pacific Wildland Fire Sciences Laboratory, US Forest Service, 400 North 34th Street, Suite 201, Seattle, WA 98103, USA.
C Canadian Forest Service, Great Lakes Forestry Centre, 1219 Queen Street East, Sault Ste. Marie, ON P6A 2E5, Canada.
D Corresponding author. Email: renaudb@uidaho.edu

International Journal of Wildland Fire 24(7) 892-899 http://dx.doi.org/10.1071/WF15083
Submitted: 9 January 2015  Accepted: 4 June 2015   Published: 16 July 2015

PDF (584 KB) $25
 Export Citation

Very large fires (VLFs) have important implications for communities, ecosystems, air quality and fire suppression expenditures. VLFs over the contiguous US have been strongly linked with meteorological and climatological variability. Building on prior modelling of VLFs (>5000 ha), an ensemble of 17 global climate models were statistically downscaled over the US for climate experiments covering the historic and mid-21st-century periods to estimate potential changes in VLF occurrence arising from anthropogenic climate change. Increased VLF potential was projected across most historically fire-prone regions, with the largest absolute increase in the intermountain West and Northern California. Complementary to modelled increases in VLF potential were changes in the seasonality of atmospheric conditions conducive to VLFs, including an earlier onset across the southern US and more symmetric seasonal extension in the northern regions. These projections provide insights into regional and seasonal distribution of VLF potential under a changing climate, and serve as a basis for future strategic and tactical fire management options.

Additional keywords: climate-fire models, climate variability, fire risks, megafires.


Abatzoglou JT (2013) Development of gridded surface meteorological data for ecological applications and modeling. International Journal of Climatology 33, 121–131.
CrossRef |

Abatzoglou JT, Brown TJ (2012) A comparison of statistical downscaling methods suited for wildfire applications. International Journal of Climatology 32, 772–780.
CrossRef |

Abatzoglou JT, Kolden CA (2011) Climate change in Western US deserts: potential for increased wildfire and invasive annual grasses. Rangeland Ecology and Management 64, 471–478.
CrossRef |

Barbero R, Abatzoglou JT, Steel EA (2014a) Modeling very large fire occurrences over the continental United States from weather and climate forcing. Environmental Research Letters 9,
CrossRef |

Barbero R, Abatzoglou JT, Kolden C, Hegewisch K, Larkin NK, Podschwit H (2014b) Multi-scalar influence of weather and climate on very large fires in the Eastern United States. International Journal of Climatology
CrossRef |

Bradley BA (2009) Regional analysis of the impacts of climate change on cheatgrass invasion shows potential risk and opportunity. Global Change Biology 15, 196–208.
CrossRef |

Brown TJ, Hall BL, Westerling AL (2004) The impact of twenty-first century climate change on wildland fire danger in the western United States: an application perspective. Climatic Change 62, 365–388.
CrossRef |

Deeming JE, Burgan RE, Cohen JD (1977) The National Fire Danger Rating System – 1978. USDA Forest Service, Intermountain Forest and Range Experiment Station. General Technical Report, INT-39 (Ogden, UT).

Dennison PE, Brewer SC, Arnold JD, Moritz MA (2014) Large wildfire trends in the western United States, 1984–2011. Geophysical Research Letters 41, 2928–2933.
CrossRef |

Diffenbaugh NS, Ashfaq M (2010) Intensification of hot extremes in the United States. Geophysical Research Letters 37, L15701
CrossRef |

Flannigan MD, Krawchuk MA, de Groot WJ, Wotton BM, Gowman LM (2009) Implications of changing climate for global wildland fire. International Journal of Wildland Fire 18, 483–507.
CrossRef |

Fosberg MA (1978) Weather in wildland fire management: the fire weather index. In ‘Proceedings of the conference on Sierra Nevada meteorology’, 19–21 June 1978, South Lake Tahoe, NV. pp. 1–4. (American Meteorological Society, Boston, MA)

Gao Y, Leung LR, Lu J, Liu Y, Huang M, Qian Y (2014) Robust spring drying in the southwestern US and seasonal migration of wet/dry patterns in a warmer climate. Geophysical Research Letters 41,
CrossRef |

Gillett NP, Weaver AJ, Zwiers FW, Flannigan MD (2004) Detecting the effect of climate change on Canadian forest fires. Geophysical Research Letters 31, L18211
CrossRef |

Hawkins ED, Sutton R (2009) The potential to narrow uncertainty in regional climate predictions. Bulletin of the American Meteorological Society 90, 1095–1107.
CrossRef |

Higuera PE, Abatzoglou JT, Littell JS, Morgan P (2015) The changing strength and nature of fire-climate relationships in the Northern Rocky Mountains, U.S.A., 1902–2008. PLoS ONE 10, e0127563
CrossRef | PubMed |

Hurteau MD, Bradford JB, Fulé PZ, Taylor AH, Martin KL (2014) Climate change, fire management, and ecological services in the southwestern US. Forest Ecology and Management 327, 280–289.
CrossRef |

IPCC 2013: Climate change 2013: The physical science basis. Contribution of Working Group I to the Fifth assessment report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (Eds TF Stocker, D Qin, G-K Plattner, M Tignor, SK Allen, J Boschung, A Nauels, Y Xia, V Bex, PM Midgley) (Cambridge University Press: Cambridge, UK and New York, NY)10.1017/CBO9781107415324.

Johnston FH, Henderson SB, Chen Y, Randerson JT, Marlier M, Defries RS, Kinney P, Bowman DMJS, Brauer M (2012) Estimated global mortality attributable to smoke from landscape fires. Environmental Health Perspectives 120, 695–701.
CrossRef | PubMed |

Keane RE, Agee JK, Fulé P, Keeley JE, Key C, Kitchen SG, Miller R, Schulte LA (2008) Ecological effects of large fires on US landscapes: benefit or catastrophe? International Journal of Wildland Fire 17, 696–712.
CrossRef |

Keating KA, Cherry S (2004) Use and interpretation of logistic regression in habitat selection studies. The Journal of Wildlife Management 68, 774–789.
CrossRef |

Lenihan JM, Bachelet D, Neilson RP, Drapek R (2008) Response of vegetation distribution, ecosystem productivity, and fire to climate change scenarios for California. Climatic Change 87, 215–230.
CrossRef |

Littell JS, McKenzie D, Peterson DL, Westerling AL (2009) Climate and wildfire area burned in western US ecoprovinces, 1916–2003. Ecological Applications 19, 1003–1021.
CrossRef | PubMed |

Liu YQ, Stanturf JA, Goodrick SL (2010) Trends in global wildfire potential in a changing climate. Forest Ecology and Management 259, 685–697.
CrossRef |

Liu YQ, Goodrick SL, Stanturf JA (2012) Future US wildfire potential trends projected using a dynamically downscaled climate change scenario. Forest Ecology and Management
CrossRef |

Luo L, Tang Y, Zhong S, Bian X, Heilman WE (2013) Will future climate favor more erratic wildfires in the western United States? Journal of Applied Meteorology and Climatology 52, 2410–2417.
CrossRef |

Marlon JR, Bartlein PJ, Gavin DG, Long CJ, Anderson RS, Briles CE, Brown KJ, Colombaroli D, Hallett DJ, Power MJ, Scharf EA, Walsh MK (2012) Long-term perspective on wildfires in the western USA. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America 109, E535–E543.
CrossRef | CAS | PubMed |

McKenzie D, Shankar U, Keane RE, Stavros EN, Heilman WE, Fox DG, Riebau AC (2014) Smoke consequences of new wildfire regimes driven by climate change. Earth’s Future 2, 35–59.
CrossRef | CAS |

Moritz MA, Parisien MA, Batllori E, Krawchuk MA, Van Dorn J, Ganz DJ, Hayhoe K (2012) Climate change and disruptions to global fire activity. Ecosphere 3,
CrossRef | CAS |

Omernik JM (1987) Ecoregions of the conterminous United States (map supplement). Annals of the Association of American Geographers 77, 118–125. . Available at http://dusk2.geo.orst.edu/prosem/PDFs/lozano_Ecoregions.pdf [Verified 18 June 2015]

Orlowsky B, Seneviratne SI (2012) Global changes in extreme events: regional and seasonal dimension. Climatic Change 110, 669–696.
CrossRef |

Prentice IC, Kelley DI, Foster PN, Friedlingstein P, Harrison SP, Bartlein PJ (2011) Modeling fire and the terrestrial carbon balance. Global Biogeochemical Cycles 25, GB3005
CrossRef |

Rhoades CC, Entwistle D, Butler D (2011) The influence of wildfire extent and severity on streamwater chemistry, sediment and temperature following the Hayman Fire, Colorado. International Journal of Wildland Fire 20, 430–442.
CrossRef | CAS |

Riley KL, Abatzoglou JT, Grenfell IC, Klene AE, Heinsch FA (2013) The relationship of large fire occurrence with drought and fire danger indices in the western USA, 1984–2008: the role of temporal scale. International Journal of Wildland Fire
CrossRef |

Rocca ME, Brown PM, MacDonald LH, Carrico CM (2014) Climate change impacts on fire regimes and key ecosystem services in Rocky Mountain forests. Forest Ecology and Management
CrossRef |

Romps DM, Seeley JT, Vollaro D, Molinari J (2014) Projected increase in lightning strikes in the United States due to global warming. Science 346, 851–854.
CrossRef | CAS | PubMed |

Schultz MG, Heil A, Hoelzemann JJ, Spessa A, Thonicke K, Goldammer JG, Held AC, Pereira JMC, van het Bolscher M (2008) Global wildland fire emissions from 1960 to 2000. Global Biogeochemical Cycles 22, GB2002
CrossRef |

Spracklen DV, Mickley LJ, Logan JA, Hudman RC, Yevich R, Flannigan MD, Westerling AL (2009) Impacts of climate change from 2000 to 2050 on wildfire activity and carbonaceous aerosol concentrations in the western United States. Journal of Geophysical Research 114, D20301
CrossRef |

Stavros EN, Abatzoglou JT, Larkin NK, McKenzie D, Steel EA (2014a) Climate and very large wildland fires in the contiguous western USA. International Journal of Wildland Fire 23, 899–914.
CrossRef |

Stavros EN, Abatzoglou JT, McKenzie D, Larkin NK (2014b) Regional projections of the likelihood of very large wildland fires under a changing climate in the contiguous Western United States. Climatic Change 126, 455–468.
CrossRef |

Stocks BJ, Fosberg MA, Lynham TJ, Mearns L, Wotton BM, Yang Q, Jin JZ, Lawrence K, Hartley GR, Mason JA, McKenney DW (1998) Climate change and forest fire potential in Russian and Canadian boreal forests. Climatic Change 38, 1–13.
CrossRef |

Strauss D, Bednar L, Mees R (1989) Do one percent of forest fires cause ninety-nine percent of the damage? Forest Science 35, 319–328.

Van Wagner CE (1987) Development and structure of the Canadian Forest Fire Weather Index System. Canadian Forestry Service, Forestry Technical Report 35. (Ottawa, ON).

Westerling AL, Brown TJ, Gershunov A, Cayan DR, Dettinger MD (2003) Climate and wildfire in the Western United States. Bulletin of the American Meteorological Society 84, 595–604.
CrossRef |

Westerling AL, Hidalgo HG, Cayan DR, Swetnam TW (2006) Warming and earlier spring increase western US forest wildfire activity. Science 313, 940–943.
CrossRef | CAS | PubMed |

Westerling AL, Bryant BP, Preisler HK, Holmes TP, Hidalgo H, Das T, Shrestha S (2011a) Climatic change and growth scenarios for California wildfire. Climatic Change 109, 445–463.
CrossRef |

Westerling AL, Turner MG, Smithwick EAH, Romme WH, Ryan MG (2011b) Continued warming could transform greater Yellowstone fire regimes by mid-21st century. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America 108, 13 165–13 170.
CrossRef | CAS |

Wotton BM, Nock CA, Flannigan MD (2010) Forest fire occurrence and climate change in Canada. International Journal of Wildland Fire 19, 253–271.
CrossRef |

Yue X, Mickley LJ, Logan JA, Kaplan JO (2013) Ensemble projections of wildfire activity and carbonaceous aerosol concentrations over the western United States in the mid-21st century. Atmospheric Environment 77, 767–780.
CrossRef | CAS | PubMed |

Subscriber Login

Legal & Privacy | Contact Us | Help


© CSIRO 1996-2016