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Future southcentral US wildfire probability due to climate change

February 28, 2018

Globally, changing fire regimes due to climate is one of the greatest threats to ecosystems and society. In this paper, we present projections of future fire probability for the southcentral USA using downscaled climate projections and the Physical Chemistry Fire Frequency Model (PC2FM). Future fire probability is projected to both increase and decrease across the study region of Oklahoma, New Mexico, and Texas. Among all end-of-century projections, change in fire probabilities (CFPs) range from − 51 to + 240%. Greatest absolute increases in fire probability are shown for areas within the range of approximately 75 to 160 cm mean annual precipitation (MAP), regardless of climate model. Although fire is likely to become more frequent across the southcentral USA, spatial patterns may remain similar unless significant increases in precipitation occur, whereby more extensive areas with increased fire probability are predicted. Perhaps one of the most important results is illumination of climate changes where fire probability response (+, −) may deviate (i.e., tipping points). Fire regimes of southcentral US ecosystems occur in a geographic transition zone from reactant- to reaction-limited conditions, potentially making them uniquely responsive to different scenarios of temperature and precipitation changes. Identification and description of these conditions may help anticipate fire regime changes that will affect human health, agriculture, species conservation, and nutrient and water cycling.

Publication Year 2018
Title Future southcentral US wildfire probability due to climate change
DOI 10.1007/s10584-018-2156-8
Authors Michael C. Stambaugh, Richard P. Guyette, Esther D. Stroh, Matthew A. Struckhoff, Joanna B. Whittier
Publication Type Article
Publication Subtype Journal Article
Series Title Climate Change
Index ID 70195754
Record Source USGS Publications Warehouse
USGS Organization Columbia Environmental Research Center