Regional modeling of large wildfires under current and potential future climates in Colorado and Wyoming, USA

Product Type: 

Journal Article

Year: 

2016

Author(s): 

West, Amanda, Sunil Kumar and Catherine S. Jarnevich

Suggested Citation: 

West, Amanda, Sunil Kumar and Catherine S. Jarnevich. 2016. Regional modeling of large wildfires under current and potential future climates in Colorado and Wyoming, USA. Climate Change 134: 565-577. DOI: 10.1007/s10584-015-1553-5

Regional analysis of large wildfire potential given climate change scenarios is crucial to understanding areas most at risk in the future, yet wildfire models are not often developed and tested at this spatial scale. We fit three historical climate suitability models for large wildfires (i.e. ≥ 400 ha) in Colorado and Wyoming using topography and decadal climate averages corresponding to wildfire occurrence at the same temporal scale. The historical models classified points of known large wildfire occurrence with high accuracies. Using a novel approach in wildfire modeling, we applied the historical models to independent climate and wildfire datasets, and the resulting sensitivities were 0.75, 0.81, and 0.83 for Maxent, Generalized Linear, and Multivariate Adaptive Regression Splines, respectively. We projected the historic models into future climate space using data from 15 global circulation models and two representative concentration pathway scenarios. Maps from these geospatial analyses can be used to evaluate the changing spatial distribution of climate suitability of large wildfires in these states. April relative humidity was the most important covariate in all models, providing insight to the climate space of large wildfires in this region. These methods incorporate monthly and seasonal climate averages at a spatial resolution relevant to land management (i.e. 1 km2) and provide a tool that can be modified for other regions of North America, or adapted for other parts of the world.

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Catherine Jarnevich
Amanda WestCatherine Jarnevich