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Future regional increases in simultaneous large Western USA wildfires

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Background: Wildfire simultaneity affects the availability and distribution of resources for fire management: multiple small fires require more resources to fight than one large fire does. Aims: The aim of this study was to project the effects of climate change on simultaneous large wildfires in the Western USA, regionalised by administrative divisions used for wildfire management. Methods: We modelled historical wildfire simultaneity as a function of selected fire indexes using generalised linear models trained on observed climate and fire data from 1984 to 2016. We then applied these models to regional climate model simulations of the 21st century from the NA-CORDEX data archive. Key results: The results project increases in the number of simultaneous 1000+ acre (4+ km2) fires in every part of the Western USA at multiple return periods. These increases are more pronounced at higher levels of simultaneity, especially in the Northern Rockies region, which shows dramatic increases in the recurrence of high return levels. Conclusions: In all regions, the models project a longer season of high simultaneity, with a slightly earlier start and notably later end. These changes would negatively impact the effectiveness of fire response. Implications: Because firefighting decisions about resource distribution, pre-positioning, and suppression strategies consider simultaneity as a factor, these results underscore the importance of potential changes in simultaneity for fire management decision-making.

S. McGinnis; L. Kessenich; L. Mearns; A. Cullen; H. Podschwit; M. Bukovsky

McGinnis S, Kessenich L, Mearns L, Cullen A, Podschwit H, Bukovsky M. Future regional increases in simultaneous large Western USA wildfires. International Journal of Wildland Fire. 2023 .

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