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Projecting wildfire area burned in the south-eastern United States, 2011-60

Formally Refereed
Authors: Jeff Prestemon, Uma Shankar, Aijun Xiu, K. Talgo, D. Yang, Ernest Dixon IV, Donald McKenzie, Karen L. Abt
Year: 2016
Type: Scientific Journal
Station: Southern Research Station
Source: International Journal of Wildland Fire


Future changes in society and climate are expected to affect wildfire activity in the south-eastern United States. The objective of this research was to understand how changes in both climate and society may affect wildfire in the coming decades.Weestimated a three-stage statistical model of wildfire area burned by ecoregion province for lightning and human causes (1992–2010) based on precipitation, temperature, potential evapotranspiration, forest land use, human population and personal income. Estimated parameters from the statistical models were used to project wildfire area burned from 2011 to 2060 under nine climate realisations, using a combination of three Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change-based emissions scenarios (A1B, A2, B2) and three general circulation models. Monte Carlo simulation quantifies ranges in projected area burned by county by year, and in total for higher-level spatial aggregations. Projections indicated, overall in the Southeast, that median annual area burned by lightning-ignited wildfire increases by 34%, human-ignited wildfire decreases by 6%, and total wildfire increases by4%by 2056–60 compared with 2016–20. Total wildfire changes vary widely by state (47 to þ30%) and ecoregion province (73 to þ79%). Our analyses could be used to generate projections of wildfire-generated air pollutant exposures, relevant to meeting the National Ambient Air Quality Standards.


climate change, human-caused wildfire, land use, lightning-caused wildfire


Prestemon, Jeffrey P.; Shankar, Uma; Xiu, Aijun; Talgo, Keith; Yang, Dongmei; Dixon, Ernest, IV; McKenzie, Donald; Abt, Karen L. 2016. Projecting wildfire area burned in the south-eastern United States, 2011 60. International Journal of Wildland Fire 25(7): 715-729. DOI: