Fourth Symposium on Fire and Forest Meteorology

Wednesday, 14 November 2001: 8:40 AM
Examining the Relationship between Snowfall and Wildfire Patterns in the Western United States
Michael J. Medler, Rutgers University, Piscataway, NJ; and P. Montesano and D. Robinson
Spatial and temporal patterns of snowfall influence future moisture availability, plant growth, and soil moisture. Therefore winter and spring snowfall may influence summer wildfire patterns. An examination was conducted of the spatial and temporal relationships and correlations between snowfall and wildfires from 1986 through 1996 in the eleven western states of the United States. Snowfall and wildfire data were aggregated and normalized for each state, as well as for the entire western region. Mean snowfall and wildfire values were determined for each geographic unit, and Z-score values were produced indicating departure from the mean for each year. For each of the eleven states and the region, graphs were produced illustrating the relationships between snowfall and wildfire patterns. No strong correlation was found for the entire western United States, nor did state aggregations show signs of consistent yearly correlations between measures of snowfall and wildfire. Nevertheless, very few states experienced above average acreage burned totals following winters with below average snow coverage

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