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

Climatic influences on interannual variability in regional burn severity across western US forests

John T. Abatzoglou A E , Crystal A. Kolden B , A. Park Williams C , James A. Lutz D and Alistair M. S. Smith B
+ Author Affiliations
- Author Affiliations

A Department of Geography, University of Idaho, 875 Perimeter Drive, Moscow, ID 83844, USA.

B Department of Forest, Range and Fire Sciences, University of Idaho, 875 Perimeter Drive, Moscow, ID 83844, USA.

C Lamont–Doherty Earth Observatory of Columbia University, Columbia University, Palisades, NY 10964, USA.

D Department of Wildland Resources, Utah State University, Logan, UT 84332, USA.

E Corresponding author. Email: jabatzoglou@uidaho.edu

International Journal of Wildland Fire 26(4) 269-275 https://doi.org/10.1071/WF16165
Submitted: 31 August 2016  Accepted: 24 February 2017   Published: 4 April 2017

Abstract

Interannual variability in burn severity is assessed across forested ecoregions of the western United States to understand how it is influenced by variations in area burned and climate during 1984–2014. Strong correlations (|r| > 0.6) between annual area burned and climate metrics were found across many of the studied regions. The burn severity of individual fires and fire seasons was weakly, but significantly (P < 0.05), correlated with burned area across many regions. Interannual variability in fuel dryness evaluated with fuel aridity metrics demonstrated weak-to-moderate (|r| >0.4) relationships with regional burn severity, congruent with but weaker than those between climate and area burned for most ecoregions. These results collectively suggest that irrespective of other factors, long-term increases in fuel aridity will lead to increased burn severity in western United States forests for existing vegetation regimes.

Additional keywords: climate, fire effects.


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