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Wildfire in the United States: Future Trends and Potential

Climate is the most important enviromental factor affecting long-term variability and change of wildfire. R.C. Wilkinson, Univerisity of FloridaSnapshot : Climate models project warming and increased droughts this century in the continental United States, so wildfire is likely to increase accordingly

Principal Investigators(s) :
Liu, YongqiangStanturf, John A.
Goodrick, Scott 
Research Station : Southern Research Station (SRS)
Year : 2012
Highlight ID : 149


Wildfire is a major forest disturbance in the United States—one with remarkable environmental, social, and economic impacts. Future wildfire trends are mainly determined by variability and change in climate, which is projected to become warmer and drier this century in the continental United States. Researchers at the Forest Service's Center for Forest Disturbance Science projected trends in wildfire potential for the continental United States using dynamical regional climate change downscaling simulations provided by the North American Regional Climate Change Assessment Program.

The projection indicates significant wildfire increases in the Southwest, Rocky Mountains, northern Great Plains, Southeast, and Pacific coast, the effects of which will be most pronounced in summer and autumn, mainly caused by future warming trends. Fire seasons will become longer in many areas. In addition, the researchers found that the presence of fire potential has been increasing across continental United States in recent decades.

Projecting future wildfire trends is essential for land managers to develop plans and strategies for mitigation and adaptation. This research contributed to the Forest Service's project on synthesis of greenhouse gas and black carbon emissions from wildlands and to the project on climate change adaptation and mitigation management options. The Resources for the Future and the Forest Service Climate Change Resource Center reported the fire projection data and subsequent results. The results will be published in Forest Ecology and Management.

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