Apr 12, 2014

Scenarios for future wildfire risk in California: links between changing demography, land use, climate, and wildfire

Benjamin P. Bryant and Anthony L. Westerling
  • Develops over 21,000 future California residential wildfire risk scenarios on a monthly 1/8° grid, using statistical wildfire models
  • Explores interactions between two global emissions scenarios, three climate models, six spatially explicit population growth scenarios derived from two growth models, and a range of parameters defining properties’ vulnerability to loss
  • Evaluates scenarios over two future time periods relative to historic baselines
  • Explores effects of spatial resolutions for calculating household exposure to wildfire on changes in estimated future property losses
  • Aims to understand what parameters are important for robustly characterizing effects of climate and growth on future residential property risks
  • Finds that by the end of the century, variation across development scenarios accounts for far more variability in statewide residential wildfire risks than does variation across climate scenarios; however, the most extreme increases in residential fire risks result from combining high-growth/high-sprawl scenarios with the most extreme climates considered here
  • States that case studies for the Bay Area and the Sierra foothills demonstrate that, while land use decisions profoundly influence future residential wildfire risks, effects of diverse growth and land use strategies vary greatly around the state