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Climate drivers of fire and fuel in the Northern Rockies: past, present & future - Final Report to the Joint Fire Science Program

Author(s): Penelope Morgan, Emily K. Heyerdahl, Carol Miller, Matthew G. Rollins
Year Published: 2005

This 3-year research project is identifying the climate drivers of regional fire and fuel dynamics in the Northern Rockies in the past, present, and future. We are identifying regional fire years from two sources: multicentury tree-ring reconstructions and multidecadal fire atlases. To elucidate the climate forcing of past fires, we have reconstructed the occurrence of regional fire years from synchrony in fire-scar dates among 15 widely separated sites (we will soon have 34). To elucidate present, i.e., twentieth-century, climate forcing of fires, we have joined together digitized fire atlases from 10 national forests and 2 national parks in the region. Despite their potential for identifying synchronous and extensive regional fire years, fire atlases have not yet been used to assess regional fire-climate relationships. To elucidate future climate forcing of fire, we will simulate the future consequences of fire and fuels management for four different landscapes chosen with input from local managers. We are parameterizing the simulation model TELSA with the past and present climate forcing we derive from fire atlases and fire scars. Our results will be summarized by fire regime condition class. We plan to submit 5 manuscripts to refereed journals and we are educatinge two M.S. graduate students; we employ a full-time technician as well. To ensure that our results are useful to fire managers, we will present our results at national, regional, and local meetings with scientists and managers. Increasingly, it is possible to predict climate for future fire seasons, so our information will help fire managers anticipate when fire management must focus primarily on fire suppression versus fuel management, and where such fuel management is likely to affect fire behavior during future regional fire years. Our research thus addresses Task 1 of JFSP AFP 2003-1, which calls for 'characterizing past, present and future fuel and fire regimes' under 'changing climate and altered climate variability.' Through planned workshops and technology transfer activities, we will also provide 'applications for long-range fire management planning.'

Citation: Morgan, Penelope; Heyerdahl, Emily; Miller, Carol; Rollins, Matthew. 2005. Climate drivers of fire and fuel in the Northern Rockies: past, present & future - Final Report to the Joint Fire Science Program. Joint Fire Science Project 03-1-1-07. Moscow, ID: University of Idaho. 10 p.
Topic(s): Fire History, Fire & Climate
Ecosystem(s): Montane dry mixed-conifer forest, Ponderosa pine woodland/savanna
Document Type: Technical Report or White Paper
NRFSN number: 11154
FRAMES RCS number: 339
Record updated: Apr 17, 2018