TJ8.1 Climate Change Effects on Wildland Fire Risk in the Northeastern United States and Great Lakes Region

Monday, 11 January 2016: 4:00 PM
Room 238/239 ( New Orleans Ernest N. Morial Convention Center)
Gaige Hunter Kerr, Johns Hopkins University, Baltimore, MD; and A. T. DeGaetano

Handout (7.9 MB)

This study investigated wildfire risk in the Northeastern United States and the Great Lakes region under a changing climate. We used an ensemble of regional climate models from the COordinated Regional Downscaling EXperiment in North America (CORDEX-North America) as inputs to the Canadian Forest Fire Weather Index (FWI) System to simulate changes in wildland fire risk between historical simulations and future projections. Our results are relatively homogenous across the focus region and indicate modest increases in the magnitude of Fire Weather Indices (FWIs). The most pronounced changes occur in the dates of the onset and peak of the wildland fire season, which are trending earlier in the year. We observed significant increases in the length of high-risk episodes, defined by the number of consecutive days with FWIs over the historical 95th percentile. Our findings show that these changes are most closely linked to expected changes in the focus region's temperature and precipitation. When considering current mitigation efforts which would be rendered ineffective, fire management agencies could adapt new mitigation strategies to reduce potential impacts to critical infrastructure and population.
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