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

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

John Abatzoglou , Crystal Kolden , Park Williams , James Lutz , Alistair Smith

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 to burned area across many regions. Interannual variability in 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.

WF16165  Accepted 24 February 2017

© CSIRO 2017