Making progress on the climate-fire relationship

Monday, December 5, 2011 - 9:41am

Alan Taylor and Andrew Carleton collaborated with geographers Carl Skinner, of the U.S. Fire Service, and Valerie Trouet, an assistant professor at the Laboratory of Tree-Ring Research at the University of Arizona, to study the relationship between climate patterns in the Pacific Ocean and subsequent fire activity. 

Their research findings were published in the June 2011 issue of Fire Science Brief, published by The Joint Fire Science Program.

"In contrast with the forecasting of fire on daily and sub-daily time scales-- which requires detailed information on weather variables such as temperature, relative humidity, and wind speed and direction-- our research shows that the longer-range (seasonal) prediction of fire severity and extent is strongly controlled by atmospheric teleconnection patterns and their relationship to Pacific Ocean circulation conditions, Carleton explains. "In particular, the Pacific-North America teleconnection is a strong—although not sole—predictor of fire on these climatic timescales."

“If we have a better understanding of how climate variability on a regional scale influences the potential for fire activity,” Taylor explains. “Then we can help improve forecasting and resource planning—but we’re not there yet.”

Read the Report

• PDF Improved Understanding of Climate-fire Relationships Along North America’s Pacific Coast (issue 136)

• For other recent Fire Science Briefs visit: