Wednesday, 19 November 2003: 9:15 AM
Wildfire-Climate Interactions Across Southeast Arizona
Weather conditions immediately prior to and during wildfire events are often viewed as the most important atmospheric determinants of regional wildfire variability, while antecedent climate conditions are often overlooked. This study evaluates the relationship between antecedent climate conditions and seasonal wildfire variability across southeast Arizona for 29 fire seasons (April-May-June) between 1973 and 2001. High and low elevation fires were examined separately to determine the influence of climate variability on dominant fuel types (low elevation grasslands with fine fuels vs. high elevation forests with heavy fuels). Positive correlations between lagged precipitation and total area burned highlight the importance of climate in regulating fine fuel production for both high and low elevation fires. Surprisingly, no significant negative correlations between precipitation and seasonal wildfire statistics (total area burned or total number of fires) were found at any seasonal lag. Droughty conditions were not associated with higher area burned or a greater number of fires. Larger low elevation fires were actually associated with wet antecedent conditions until just prior to the fire season.