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Increasing synchronous fire danger in forests of the western United States

Author(s): John T. Abatzoglou, Caroline S. Juang, A. Park Williams, Crystal A. Kolden, Anthony L. Westerling
Year Published: 2021

Widespread fire activity taxes suppression resources and can compound wildfire hazards. We examine the geographic synchronicity of fire danger across western United States forests as a proxy for the strain on fire suppression resource availability. Interannual variability in the number of days with synchronous fire danger – defined as fire weather indices exceeding the local 90th percentile across ≥ 40% of forested land - was strongly correlated (r=0.85) with the number of days with high strain on national fire management resources. A 25-day increase in the annual number of days with synchronous fire danger was observed during 1979‐2020. Climate projections show a doubling of such days by 2051‐2080. Increased fire‐danger synchrony would escalate the likelihood of years with extended periods of synchronous fire danger that have historically strained suppression efforts and contribute to additional burned area, therein requiring additional management strategies for coping with anticipated surges in fire suppression demands.

Citation: Abatzoglou, John T.; Juang, Caroline S.; Williams, A. Park; Kolden, Crystal A.; Westerling, Anthony L. 2021. Increasing synchronous fire danger in forests of the western United States. Geophysical Research Letters 48(2):e2020GL091377 https://doi.org/10.1029/2020GL091377
Topic(s): Fire Behavior, Weather, Fire & Climate, Risk
Ecosystem(s): None
Document Type: Book or Chapter or Journal Article
NRFSN number: 22566
FRAMES RCS number: 62562
Record updated: Feb 2, 2021