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

Impact of climate change on area burned in Alberta’s boreal forest

Cordy Tymstra A D , Mike D. Flannigan B , Owen B. Armitage C and Kimberley Logan B
+ Author Affiliations
- Author Affiliations

A Alberta Sustainable Resource Development, Forest Protection Division, 9th Floor, 9920-108 Street, Edmonton, AB T5K 2M4, Canada.

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

C Ember Research Services, 4345 Northridge Crescent, Victoria, BC V8Z 4Z4, Canada.

D Corresponding author. Email:

International Journal of Wildland Fire 16(2) 153-160
Published: 30 April 2007


Eight years of fire weather data from sixteen representative weather stations within the Boreal Forest Natural Region of Alberta were used to compile reference weather streams for low, moderate, high, very high and extreme Fire Weather Index (FWI) conditions. These reference weather streams were adjusted to create daily weather streams for input into Prometheus – the Canadian Wildland Fire Growth Model. Similar fire weather analyses were completed using Canadian Regional Climate Model (CRCM) output for northern Alberta (174 grid cells) to generate FWI class datasets (temperature, relative humidity, wind speed, Fine Fuel Moisture Code, Duff Moisture Code and Drought Code) for 1 ×, 2 × and 3 × CO2 scenarios. The relative differences between the CRCM scenario outputs were then used to adjust the reference weather streams for northern Alberta. Area burned was calculated for 21 fires, fire weather classes and climate change scenarios. The area burned estimates were weighted based on the historical frequency of area burned by FWI class, and then normalized to derive relative area burned estimates for each climate change scenario. The 2 × and 3 × CO2 scenarios resulted in a relative increase in area burned of 12.9 and 29.4% from the reference 1 × CO2 scenario.


Nick Nimchuk, Weather Supervisor, Forest Protection Division, Alberta Sustainable Resource Development provided useful comments and suggestions for the weather analysis, and in particular, the use of representative wind speed directions. Rob Bryce from Mobilia OS Technologies Inc. provided assistance so that a new Prometheus application could be used for this study. Hua Sun and Margriet Berkhout provided assistance with the map productions.


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