Skip to Main Content
U.S. Forest Service
Caring for the land and serving people

United States Department of Agriculture

Home > Search > Publication Information

  1. Share via EmailShare on FacebookShare on LinkedInShare on Twitter
    Dislike this pubLike this pub


    High fire activity in western North America is associated with drought. Drought and fire prevail under negative El NiƱo Southern Oscillation (ENSO) and Pacific Decadal Oscillation (PDO) phases in the Southwest and with positive phases in the Northwest. Here, I infer climate effects on historic fire patterns in the geographically intermediate, eastern Great Basin and seek out evidence of human influence on reconstructed fire regimes. Surface fire chronologies were constructed for 10 sites using tree-ring-based fire scars. Regional (67) and local (247) fire years and no-fire (187) years were identified from 1400 to 1900 CE. I compared fire chronologies with indices of the Palmer Drought Severity Index (PDSI), ENSO, and PDO. Regionally, fires were significantly more common during drought and were associated with negative ENSO and positive-to-negative PDO transitions while no-fire years were associated with positive ENSO and negative-to-positive PDO transitions. Conditions were significantly wetter 2 years prior to regional fire years and drier 4 years prior to no-fire years, providing evidence that fires were historically fuel limited. Local fire years occurred under a broad range of climate conditions. Most sites showed either persistent late or bimodal (early and late) fire seasonality patterns. These patterns are distinct from the mid-season peak observed for modern lightning-caused fires, suggesting a human influence on historical ignition patterns. Results demonstrate that climate was an important synchronizer of fire at the regional scale and that locally fire regimes were the product of climate-regulated fuels and some combination of human and lightning ignition patterns.

    Publication Notes

    • You may send email to 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.


    Kitchen, Stanley G. 2015. Climate and human influences on historical fire regimes (AD 1400-1900) in the eastern Great Basin (USA). The Holocene. doi: 10.1177/0959683615609751.


    Google Scholar


    anthropogenic fire, El Nino Southern Oscillation, fire history, fire seasonality, Pacific Decadal Oscillation, Palmer Drought Severity Index

    Related Search

    XML: View XML
Show More
Show Fewer
Jump to Top of Page