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

Trend analysis of fire season length and extreme fire weather in North America between 1979 and 2015

Piyush Jain A , Xianli Wang B and Mike D. Flannigan A
+ Author Affiliations
- Author Affiliations

A Department of Renewable Resources, University of Alberta, 751 General Service Building, Edmonton, AB, T6G 2H1, Canada.

B Great Lakes Forestry Centre, Canadian Forest Service, Natural Resources Canada, 1219 Queen Street East, Sault Ste Marie, ON, P6A 2E5, Canada.

C Corresponding author. Email: jain@ualberta.ca

International Journal of Wildland Fire 26(12) 1009-1020 https://doi.org/10.1071/WF17008
Submitted: 19 January 2017  Accepted: 20 September 2017   Published: 29 November 2017

Abstract

We have constructed a fire weather climatology over North America from 1979 to 2015 using the North American Regional Reanalysis dataset and the Canadian Fire Weather Index (FWI) System. We tested for the presence of trends in potential fire season length, based on a meteorological definition, and extreme fire weather using the non-parametric Theil–Sen slope estimator and Mann–Kendall test. Applying field significance testing (i.e. joint significance of multiple tests) allowed the identification of the locations of significant trends, taking into account spatial correlations. Fire season length was found to be increasing over large areas of North America, especially in eastern Canada and the south-western US, which is consistent with a later fire season end and an earlier fire season start. Both positive and negative trends in potential fire spread days and the 99th percentile of FWI occurred in Canada and the contiguous United States, although the trends of largest magnitude and statistical significance were mostly positive. In contrast, the proportion of trends with significant decreases in these variables were much lower, indicating an overall increase in extreme fire weather. The smaller proportion of significant positive trends found over Canada reflects the truncation of the time series, necessary because assimilation of precipitation observations over Canada ceased in the reanalysis post-2002.

Additional keywords: climate change, fire weather index, reanalysis, time series.


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