You are here

High soil temperature data archive

June, 2018

Welcome to the High Soil Temperature Data Archive


This data is available to download. The High Soil Temperature Data Archive is organized by the scientist that originally collected the data. A brief description of each dataset is provided within each scientist’s folder in a ‘ReadMe’ file as well as any peer reviewed articles in which the data was used. Please see the map of site locations for geographic information.

Citation: Robichaud PR, Massman WJ, Lesiecki ML. 2018. High soil temperature data archive from prescribed fires and wildfires database. Ft. Collins, CO: US Department of Agriculture, Forest Service, Rocky Mountain Research Station. Available at


The purpose of this archive is to provide users with soil temperature datasets collected during prescribed fires and wildfires across the Western US. These data reflect over two decades of data collection by various Forest Service scientists. These data archives are provided to users for research, soil heating modeling testing and general understanding of fire’s impact on soil resources. While much of this data has been published in peer reviewed articles, not all the data has been previously available.

Soil heating during wildfires, prescribed fires, or slash-pile burns affects the soil and, in some cases, can irreversibly alter the soil. These direct (first-order) fire effects often result in significant long-term biological, chemical, physical, and hydrological effects (secondary fire effects).

The magnitude and duration of soil heating determine the depth of heat penetration. There are well-established critical temperature thresholds for specific secondary fire effects on soil. In general, soil temperatures in the range of 60-80°C for short periods of time are lethal to plant seeds, plant roots, and plant tissue. At temperatures approaching the range of 120-160°C, microbial life is extinguished.

At higher temperatures, often irreversible physical, chemical, mineral, and hydrologic changes begin to occur to the soil. Temperature thresholds have been identified for numerous physical, chemical and biological properties, such as the formation of water repellent soils that reduce infiltration potential between 175-280°C. Nitrogen is volatilized between 300-500°C.


Manitou Experimental Forest Slash Burn from 2004 with Fire Crew in the background
Manitou Experimental Forest Slash Burn


Thermal Conductivity

We acknowledge that this data was difficult to collect and assemble and, as such, would like to thank all those who contributed. A special thanks to Matt D. Busse, Sally Haase (retired), Deborah S. Page-Dumroese, Matt Lesiecki, Stephen Sackett (retired), and David R. Weise.

Funding for this project was provided, in part, by the Joint Fire Science Program under agreement 15-1-05-11 with Rocky Mountain Research Station.

Joint Fire Science Program and the Rocky Mountain Reserach Station

Project Contact: 

Principal Investigators:
Matt D. Busse - US Forest Service Pacific Southwest Research Station
David R. Weise - US Forest Service Pacific Southwest Research Station