El Niño and its impact on fire weather conditions in Alaska
Jason C. Hess, Carven A. Scott, Gary L. Hufford and Michael D. Fleming
International Journal of Wildland Fire
10(1) 1 - 13
Examining the relationship of El Niño to weather patterns in Alaska shows wide climate variances that depend on the teleconnection between the tropics and the northern latitudes. However, the weather patterns exhibited in Alaska during and just after moderate to strong El Niño episodes are generally consistent: above normal temperature and precipitation along the Alaskan coast, and above normal temperature and below normal precipitation in the interior, especially through the winter. The warm, dry conditions in the Alaskan interior increase summer wildfire potential. Statistics on the area burned since 1940 show that 15 out of 17 of the biggest fire years occurred during a moderate to strong El Niño episode. These 15 years account for nearly 63% of the total area burned over the last 58 years. Evidence points to increased dry thunderstorms and associated lightning activity during an El Niño episode; the percentage of total area burned by lightning caused fires during five episodes increased from a normal of less than 40% to a high of about 96%. Keywords: El Niñ o; ENSO; Alaska; wildfires; weather patterns; burned area.
Full text doi:10.1071/WF01007
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