Nov 24, 2011

Climate change and growth scenarios for California wildfire

A. L. Westerling & B. P. Bryant & H. K. Preisler & T. P. Holmes & H. G. Hidalgo & T. Das & S. R. Shrestha
Climatic Change
  • Models large wildfire occurrence and burned area using hydroclimate and landsurface characteristics under a range of future climate and development scenarios
  • Analyzes the range of uncertainty for future wildfire regimes over two emissions pathways (the Special Report on Emissions Scenarios [SRES] A2 and B1 scenarios); three global climate models (Centre National de Recherches Météorologiques CM3, Geophysical Fluid Dynamics Laboratory CM2.1 and National Center for Atmospheric Research PCM1); three scenarios for future population growth and development footprint; and two thresholds for defining the wildland-urban interface relative to housing density
  • Assesses results for three 30-year time periods centered on 2020, 2050, and 2085, relative to a 30-year reference period centered on 1975
  • Finds that increases in wildfire burned area are anticipated for most scenarios, although the range of outcomes is large and increases with time
  • Finds the increase in wildfire burned area associated with the higher emissions pathway (SRES A2) is substantial, with increases statewide ranging from 36% to 74% by 2085, and increases exceeding 100% in much of the forested areas of Northern California in every SRES A2 scenario by 2085