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Article << Previous     |     Next >>   Contents Vol 19(1)

Spatial and temporal characteristics of wildfires in Mississippi, USA

Katarzyna Grala A B, William H. Cooke A

A Department of Geosciences, Mississippi State University, PO Box 5448, Mississippi State, MS 39762-5448, USA.
B Corresponding author. Email: kgrala@geosci.msstate.edu
 
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Abstract

Forests constitute a large percentage of the total land area in Mississippi and are a vital element of the state economy. Although wildfire occurrences have been considerably reduced since the 1920s, there are still ~4000 wildfires each year in Mississippi burning over 24 000 ha (60 000 acres). This study focusses on recent history and various characteristics of Mississippi wildfires to provide better understanding of spatial and temporal characteristics of wildfires in the state. Geographic information systems and Mississippi Forestry Commission wildfire occurrence data were used to examine relationships between climatic and anthropogenic factors, the incidence, burned area, wildfire cause, and socioeconomic factors. The analysis indicated that wildfires are more frequent in southern Mississippi, in counties covered mostly by pine forest, and are most prominent in the winter–spring season. Proximity to roads and cities were two anthropogenic factors that had the most statistically significant correlation with wildfire occurrence and size. In addition, the validity of the Palmer Drought Severity Index as a measure of fire activity was tested for climatic districts in Mississippi. Analysis indicated that drought influences fire numbers and size during summer and fall (autumn). The strongest relationship between the Palmer Drought Severity Index and burned area was found for the southern climatic districts for the summer–fall season.

Keywords: fire potential, GIS, spatial pattern analysis, wildfire history.


   
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