S141 Climatological Analysis of Historical Southeastern Wildfire

Sunday, 6 January 2019
Hall 4 (Phoenix Convention Center - West and North Buildings)
Parker Wade Henry, University of Georgia, Athens, GA

Wildfires in the Southeast have become a problem in recent years, along with periodic widespread droughts. Homes and families near these common areas are affected by rapidly developing wildfires. In this study, drought and wildfire counts are analyzed in correlation with each other over time. The states covered in this study are Alabama, Florida, Georgia, Mississippi, North Carolina, South Carolina, and Tennessee. Each state is mapped with fire data by year and compared to a drought overlay map to see where fires are more common. The goal of the project was to create new climatological wildfire precaution maps for better communication to the public of areas in the Southeast region that are likely to have fires depending on normal rainfall or drought conditions. The study reveals that certain states will commonly have large wildfires regardless of rainfall, while other states become more prone to wildfires during drought. Maps were made according to these results. Although research suggests that fires may become more common in the coming years due to climate change, this study suggests that the past 20 years has seen a decrease in the total number of wildfires. While this seems like a beneficial change, it actually creates the need for more prescribed burns to prevent larger fires.
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