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Interannual to decadal drought and wildfire in the western United States

Author(s): Anthony L. Westerling, Thomas W. Swetnam
Year Published: 2003

Twentieth-century wildfire suppression and land management policies have promoted biomass accumulations in some ecosystems in the western United States where wildfire is a natural and necessary element. These changes have fueled large, stand-replacing crown fires in southwestern ponderosa pine forests, where they were rare under natural fire regimes [Allen et al., 2002]. Current policy contemplates massive ecosystem restoration involving prescribed fires and mechanical fuel reductions on millions of hectares and the subsequent re-introduction of pre-suppression fire regimes [USDA and USDI, 2002]. Success critically depends on understanding past and present fire regimes. The current western drought and the potential for climatic change to increase the frequency and magnitude of the region's droughts [Smith et al., 2001] further emphasize the need to understand short- and long-term climate-fire relations.

Citation: Westerling, Anthony L.; Swetnam, Thomas W. 2003. Interannual to decadal drought and wildfire in the western United States. EOS Transactions of the American Geophysicists Union. 84(49): 545, 554-555.
Topic(s): Fire History, Frequency, Fire & Climate
Ecosystem(s): None
Document Type: Book or Chapter or Journal Article, Synthesis
NRFSN number: 8344
FRAMES RCS number: 13236
Record updated: Apr 19, 2017