Effects of climate oscillations on wildland fire potential in the continental United States: Climate Effects on Fire Potential

Abstract

The effects of climate oscillations on spatial and temporal variations in wildland fire potential in the continental U.S. are examined from 1979 to 2015 using cyclostationary empirical orthogonal functions (CSEOFs). The CSEOF analysis isolates effects associated with the modulated annual cycle and the El Niño–Southern Oscillation (ENSO). The results show that, in early summer, wildland fire potential is reduced in the southwest during El Niño but is increased in the northwest, with opposite trends for La Niña. In late summer, El Niño is associated with increased wildland fire potential in the southwest. Relative to the mean, the largest impacts of ENSO are observed in the northwest and southeast. Climate impacts on fire potential due to ENSO are found to be most closely associated with variations in relative humidity. The connections established here between fire potential and climate oscillations could result in improved wildland fire risk assessment and resource allocation.

Publication
Geophysical Research Letters
Peter Hamlington
Peter Hamlington
Associate Professor

Peter is an associate professor in the Paul M. Rady Department of Mechanical Engineering at the University of Colorado Boulder and the principal investigator of the Turbulence and Energy Systems Laboratory.