584 Climate Change and Associated Fire Potential for the Southeastern United States in the 21st Century

Wednesday, 9 January 2013
Exhibit Hall 3 (Austin Convention Center)
Anthony Bedel, Commonwealth of Kentucky, Frankfort, KY

Handout (1.6 MB)

Climate models indicate that the climate of the southeastern U.S. will experience higher temperatures and associated evapotranspiration in the 21st Century. Examination of the results in this study showed that conditions in the Southeast will likely become drier overall given a warmer environment in the future winter and spring seasons. Under these conditions, forest fire fuels are likely to prosper. This thesis examined the potential impacts of a warmer climate in the 21st Century on relevant meteorological fire parameters (e.g., total and convective precipitation, 500-hPa geopotential heights, near-surface relative humidity) and popular fire indices (e.g., Haines Index and KBDI) in the Southeast. Although the results offered conflicting implications in portions of the study domain, the southern half of the Southeast (i.e., the Deep South, the southern Piedmont, and Florida) exhibited the highest potential for increased fire activity in the mid-21st Century given maximum warming and drying in these areas.

INDEX WORDS: forest fires, KBDI, Haines Index, southeastern U.S.

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