May 16, 2017

Fire-climate history and landscape patterns of high burn severity areas on the California southern and central coast

by
Christopher Potter
,
Journal of Coastal Conservation
  • States that there is mounting evidence that fire size and severity have been growing on the central and southern California coastal landscape over the past several decades
  • Analyzes landsat satellite data for the 20 largest fires on the Central California coast since 1984 to determine the relationships between climate/weather conditions at the time of ignition and the size of high burn severity (HBS) areas
  • Examines the relationship between area burned and landscape patterns of HBS coverage, including patch size, edge complexity, perimeter-to-area ratio, and aggregation metrics
  • Results showed that climate conditions at the time of ignitions have been significant controllers of the total area of HBS and the complexity of HBS patches on the fire landscape
  • Finds that as maximum air temperatures for the month of ignition approached 40°C, the percentage of HBS to total area burned frequently exceeded 20%
  • Finds the percentage of HBS to total area burned also exceed 20% when the precipitation total recorded during the previous 12 months was less than 25% of the annual average precipitation
  • Landscape analysis results showed that, as the total area burned in fires on the Central California coast grows, the edge lengths and areas of HBS patches also grows at a rapid rate
  • Finds that, at the same time, the perimeter-to-area ratio of HBS patches decreases gradually and the HBS patches become more aggregated as total burned area grows