Skip to Main Content
The potential and realized spread of wildfires across CanadaAuthor(s): Xianli Wang; Marc-Andre Parisien; Mike D. Flannigan; Sean A. Parks; Kerry R. Anderson; John M. Little; Steve W. Taylor
Source: Global Change Biology. 20: 2518-2530.
Publication Series: Scientific Journal (JRNL)
Station: Rocky Mountain Research Station
PDF: Download Publication (620.97 KB)
DescriptionGiven that they can burn for weeks or months, wildfires in temperate and boreal forests may become immense (eg., 100 - 04 km2). However, during the period within which a large fire is 'active', not all days experience weather that is conducive to fire spread; indeed most of the spread occurs on a small proportion (e.g., 1 - 15 days) of not necessarily consecutive days during the active period. This study examines and compares the Canada-wide patterns in fireconducive weather ('potential' spread) and the spread that occurs on the ground ('realized' spread). Results show substantial variability in distributions of potential and realized spread days across Canada. Both potential and realized spread are higher in western than in eastern Canada; however, whereas potential spread generally decreases from south to north, there is no such pattern with realized spread. The realized-to-potential fire-spread ratio is considerably higher in northern Canada than in the south, indicating that proportionally more fire-conducive days translate into fire progression. An exploration of environmental correlates to spread show that there may be a few factors compensating for the lower potential spread in northern Canada: a greater proportion of coniferous (i.e., more flammable) vegetation, lesser human impacts (i.e., less fragmented landscapes), sufficient fire ignitions, and intense droughts. Because a linear relationship exists between the frequency distributions of potential spread days and realized spread days in a fire zone, it is possible to obtain one from the other using a simple conversion factor. Our methodology thus provides a means to estimate realized fire spread from weather-based data in regions where fire databases are poor, which may improve our ability to predict future fire activity.
- You may send email to email@example.com to request a hard copy of this publication.
- (Please specify exactly which publication you are requesting and your mailing address.)
- We recommend that you also print this page and attach it to the printout of the article, to retain the full citation information.
- This article was written and prepared by U.S. Government employees on official time, and is therefore in the public domain.
CitationWang, Xianli; Parisien, Marc-Andre; Flannigan, Mike D.; Parks, Sean A.; Anderson, Kerry R.; Little, John M.; Taylor, Steve W. 2014. The potential and realized spread of wildfires across Canada. Global Change Biology. 20: 2518-2530.
Keywordsboreal forests, Canada, fire spread, MODIS fire detections, temperate forests, weather
- Contributions of ignitions, fuels, and weather to the spatial patterns of burn probability of a boreal landscape
- Invasions by Harmonia axyridis (Pallas) (Coleoptera: Coccinellidae) in the Western Hemisphere: implications for South America
- Measurement of inter- and intra-annual variability of landscape fire activity at a continental scale: The Australian case
XML: View XML