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Warmer and drier fire seasons contribute to increases in area burned at high severity in western US forests from 1985 to 2017

Author(s): Sean A. Parks, John T. Abatzoglou
Year Published: 2020
Description:

Increases in burned area across the western US since the mid‐1980’s have been widely documented and linked partially to climate factors, yet evaluations of trends in fire severity are lacking. Here, we evaluate fire severity trends and their interannual relationships to climate for western US forests from 1985‐2017. Significant increases in annual area burned at high severity (AABhs) were observed across most ecoregions, with an overall eight‐fold increase in AABhs across all western US forests. The relationships we identified between the annual fire severity metrics and climate, as well as the observed and projected trend toward warmer and drier fire seasons, suggest that climate change will contribute to increased fire severity in future decades where fuels remain abundant. The growing prevalence of high‐severity fire in western US forests has important implications to forest ecosystems, including an increased probability of fire‐catalyzed conversions from forest to alternative vegetation types.

Citation: Parks, Sean A.; Abatzoglou, John T. 2020. Warmer and drier fire seasons contribute to increases in area burned at high severity in western US forests from 1985-2017. Geophysical Research Letters 47(22):e2020GL089858. https://doi.org/10.1029/2020GL089858
Topic(s): Fire Behavior, Fire History, Fire Regime, Fire Intensity / Burn Severity, Fire & Climate, Risk
Ecosystem(s): None
Document Type: Book or Chapter or Journal Article
NRFSN number: 22500
FRAMES RCS number: 62204
Record updated: Jan 13, 2021