Climatic Change

, Volume 126, Issue 3–4, pp 455–468 | Cite as

Regional projections of the likelihood of very large wildland fires under a changing climate in the contiguous Western United States

  • E. Natasha StavrosEmail author
  • John T. Abatzoglou
  • Donald McKenzie
  • Narasimhan K. Larkin


Seasonal changes in the climatic potential for very large wildfires (VLWF ≥ 50,000 ac ~ 20,234 ha) across the western contiguous United States are projected over the 21st century using generalized linear models and downscaled climate projections for two representative concentration pathways (RCPs). Significant (p ≤ 0.05) increases in VLWF probability for climate of the mid-21st century (2031–2060) relative to contemporary climate are found, for both RCP 4.5 and 8.5. The largest differences are in the Eastern Great Basin, Northern Rockies, Pacific Northwest, Rocky Mountains, and Southwest. Changes in seasonality and frequency of VLWFs d7epend on changes in the future climate space. For example, flammability-limited areas such as the Pacific Northwest show that (with high model agreement) the frequency of weeks with VLWFs in a given year is 2–2.7 more likely. However, frequency of weeks with at least one VLWF in fuel-limited systems like the Western Great Basin is 1.3 times more likely (with low model agreement). Thus, areas where fire is directly associated with hot and dry climate, as opposed to experiencing lagged effects from previous years, experience more change in the likelihood of VLWF in future projections. The results provide a quantitative foundation for management to mitigate the effects of VLWFs.


Fire Regime Rocky Mountain Fire Danger Wildland Urban Interface Fuel Moisture 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.



The Pacific Northwest Research Station, U.S. Forest Service, and the Joint Fire Science Program, project 11-1-7-4, provided funding for this paper. The authors would like to thank Robert Norheim, with the University of Washington, for designing maps used in the analysis and organizing the data, as well as Ernesto Alvarado, Christian Torgersen, Tim Essington, David L. Peterson, and Tara Strand for constructive reviews. The final stages of this work were carried out at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory, California Institute of Technology, under contract with the National Aeronautics and Space Administration. Copyright 2014. All rights reserved.

Supplementary material

10584_2014_1229_MOESM1_ESM.docx (112 kb)
Table S1 (DOCX 111 kb)
10584_2014_1229_MOESM2_ESM.docx (67 kb)
Table S2 (DOCX 67 kb)


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht (outside the USA) 2014

Authors and Affiliations

  • E. Natasha Stavros
    • 1
    Email author
  • John T. Abatzoglou
    • 2
  • Donald McKenzie
    • 3
  • Narasimhan K. Larkin
    • 3
  1. 1.Jet Propulsion LaboratoryCalifornia Institute of TechnologyPasadenaUSA
  2. 2.Department of GeographyUniversity of IdahoMoscowUSA
  3. 3.Pacific Wildland Fire Sciences Laboratory, US Forest ServiceSeattleUSA

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