The Economics of Forest Disturbances

Volume 79 of the series Forestry Sciences pp 107-122

Climatology for Wildfire Management

  • Anthony L. WesterlingAffiliated withSierra Nevada Research Institute, University of California

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Forest and wildfire managers in the western United States are very familiar with weather information and forecasts provided by various public and private sources. Even very sophisticated users of these products, however, may be less familiar with climate information and forecasts and their applications. Partly this is because the scientific community has made rapid progress in climate, and particularly climate forecasting, as a field of applied study in recent decades. Integrating these new research findings into management systems is a difficult and time-consuming process. Sophisticated users of weather information may also be less comfortable using climate information because, conceptually, the two are so different: weather is something we all experience every day, while climate is an abstraction.

This chapter has three goals. First, to define what climate, as opposed to weather, is, and to explain what this implies for climate versus weather forecasts. Second, to describe the scientific community’s current understanding of the relationships between climate variability and forest wildfire in the western United States. And finally, to demonstrate a forecast application that exploits these relationships, and their potential applications to the business of forest wildfire management.