Renaud Barbero, John T. Abatzoglou, Timothy J. Brown
Year Published:

Cataloging Information

Fire Behavior
Extreme Fire Behavior

Record updated: June 14, 2018
NRFSN number: 15643

Satellite-mapped fire perimeters and the multivariate El Niño–Southern Oscillation index were used to examine the impact of concurrent El Niño–Southern Oscillation (ENSO) phase on very large fire (VLF) occurrences over the intermountain northwestern United States (U.S.) from 1984 to 2012. While the warm phase of ENSO promotes drier and warmer than normal conditions across the region during winter and spring that favor widespread fire activity the following summer, a reduction in VLFs was found during the warm phase of ENSO during summer concurrent with the fire season. This paradox is primarily tied to an anomalous upper level trough over the western U.S. and positive anomalies in integrated water vapor that extend over the northwestern U.S. during summers when the warm phase of ENSO is present. Collectively, these features result in widespread increases in precipitation amount during the summer and a curtailment of periods of critically low-fuel moistures that can carry wildfire.


Barber R, Abatzoglou JT, Brown TJ. 2015. Seasonal reversal of the influence of El Niño–Southern Oscillation on very large wildfire occurrence in the interior northwestern United States. Geophysical Research Letters 42 (9), p 3538–3545.

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