International Journal of Wildland Fire International Journal of Wildland Fire Society
Journal of the International Association of Wildland Fire

Analysis of the patterns of large fires in the boreal forest region of Alaska

Eric S. Kasischke, David Williams and Donald Barry

International Journal of Wildland Fire 11(2) 131 - 144
Published: 30 July 2002


Analyses of the patterns of fire in Alaska were carried out using three different data sets, including a large-fire database dating back to 1950. Analyses of annual area burned statistics illustrate the episodic nature of fire in Alaska, with most of the area burning during a limited number of high fire years. Over the past 50 years, high fire years occurred once every 4 years. Seasonal fire statistics indicated that high fire years consist of larger fire events that occur later in the growing season. On a decadal basis, average annual area burned has varied little between the 1960s and 1990s. Using a geographic information system (GIS), the spatial distribution of fires (aggregated by ecoregions) was compared with topographic, vegetation cover, and climate features of Alaska. The use of topographic data allows for a more realistic determination of fire cycle by eliminating areas where fires do not occur due to lack of vegetation above the treeline. Geographic analyses show that growing season temperature, precipitation, lightning strike frequency, elevation, aspect, and the level of forest cover interact in a complex fashion to control fire frequency.

Keywords: Fire map, fire history, spatial analysis

© IAWF 2002

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