The Increasing Wildfire and Post-Fire Debris-Flow Threat in Western USA, and Implications for Consequences of Climate Change

  • Susan H. Cannon
  • Jerry DeGraff

Abstract

In southern California and the intermountain west of the USA, debris flows generated from recently-burned basins pose significant hazards. Increases in the frequency and size of wildfires throughout the western USA can be attributed to increases in the number of fire ignitions, fire suppression practices, and climatic influences. Increased urbanization throughout the western USA, combined with the increased wildfire magnitude and frequency, carries with it the increased threat of subsequent debris-flow occurrence. Differences between rainfall thresholds and empirical debris-flow susceptibility models for southern California and the intermountain west indicate a strong influence of climatic and geologic settings on post-fire debris-flow potential. The linkages between wildfires, debris-flow occurrence, and global warming suggests that the experiences in the western United States are highly likely to be duplicated in many other parts of the world, and necessitate hazard assessment tools that are specific to local climates and physiographies.

Keywords

Debris flow Hazards Risk Climate change Western USA Southern California Intermountain west USA 

Preview

Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.

Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.

References

  1. Allen CD, Touchan R, Swetnam TW (1996) Overview of fire history in the Jemez Mountains, New Mexico, In: Goff F, Kues BS, Rogers MA, McFadden LD, Gardner JN, (eds.), The Jemez Mountain region, New Mexico Geological Society, Forty-Seventh Annual Field Conference, September 25–28, 1996, 35–36.Google Scholar
  2. Backlund P, Janetos A, Schimel D (2008) The effects of climate change on agriculture, land resources, water resources, and biodiversity in the United States. Final Report, Synthesis and Assessment Product 4.3, A Report by the U.S. Climate Change Science Program and the Subcommittee on Global Change Research, US Department of Agriculture, Washington, DC.Google Scholar
  3. Bailey RW, Craddock GW, Croft AR (1947) Watershed management for summer flood control in Utah. U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service, Miscellaneous Publication 639, 24p.Google Scholar
  4. Beven KJ (2000) Rainfall-runoff modeling: the primer: John Wiley & Sons Ltd, Chichester, England, 360p.Google Scholar
  5. Campbell RH (1985) Feasibility of a nationwide program for the identification and delineation of hazards from mud flows and other landslides: Chapter C, priority U.S. areas for the delineation of susceptibility to mud flows and other landslides. US Geological Survey Open-File Report 85-276-C, 1–6.Google Scholar
  6. Cannon SH, Gartner JE, Holland-Sears A, Thurston BM, Gleason JA (2003) Debris-flow response of basins burned by the 2002 Coal Seam and Missionary Ridge fires, Colorado. In: Boyer DD, Santi PM, Rogers WP (eds.), Engineering Geology in Colorado–Contributions, Trends, and Case Histories: AEG Special Publication 15, Colorado Geological Survey Special Publication 55, 31 pp.Google Scholar
  7. Cannon SH, Gartner JE, Wilson RC, Laber JL (2008), Storm rainfall conditions for floods and debris flows from recently burned areas in southwestern Colorado and southern California. Geomorphology, 96, 250–269.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  8. Cannon SH, Kirkham RM, Parise M (2001) Wildfire-related debris-flow initiation processes, Storm King Mountain, Colorado. Geomorphology, 39, 171–188.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  9. Chourre M, Wright S (2005) Population growth of southwest United States 1900–1990. Impact of climate change and land use in the southwest United States, http://geochange.er.usgs.gov/sw/.
  10. Costa JE (1984) Physical geomorphology of debris flows. In: Costa JE, Fleisher PJ (eds.), Developments and applications of Geomorphology. Springer-Verlag, Berlin, 268–317.Google Scholar
  11. DeGraff, JV, Lewis DS (1989) Using past landslide activity to guide post-wildfire mitigation. In: Watters RJ (ed.) (1989) Proceedings of the 25th Symposium on Engineering Geology and Geotechnical Engineering, Reno, NV, pp. 65–75.Google Scholar
  12. DeGraff JV (1994) The geomorphology of some debris flows in the southern Sierra Nevada, California. Geomorphology, 10, 231–252.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  13. DeGraff JV, Cannon SH, Gallegos AJ (2007) Reducing post-wildfire debris flow risk through the burned area emergency response (BAER) process. In: Scaefer VR, Schuster RL, Turner AK (eds.), AEG Special Publication 23: 1440–1447.Google Scholar
  14. Eaton EC (1935) Flood and erosion control problems and their solution. ASCE Transactions, 101, 1302–1330.Google Scholar
  15. Gartner JE, Cannon SH, Santi PM, deWolf VG (2008) Empirical models to predict debris flow volumes generated from recently burned basins in the western U.S. Geomophology, 96, 339–354.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  16. Giraud RE, McDonald GN (2007) The 2000–2004 fire-related debris flows in northern Utah. In: Schaefer VR, Schuster RL, Turner AK (eds.), AEG Special Publication 23, 1522–1531.Google Scholar
  17. Grissino-Mayer HD, Romme WH, Floyd LM, Hanna DD (2004) Climatic and human influences on fire regiense of the souther western San Juan Mountains, Colorado, USA. Ecology, 85 (6), 1708–1724.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  18. Helsel DR, Hirsch RM (2002) Statistical methods in water resources. U.S. Geological Survey Techniques of Water Resources Investigations, Book 4, Chapter A3, 510p. http://water.usgs.gov.pubs/twri/twri4a3/.
  19. Kauffman JB (2004) Death rides the forest- perceptions of fire, land use and ecological restoration of western forests. Conservation Biology, 18 (4), 878–882.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  20. Keeley JE, Fotheringham CJ, Morais M (1999) Reexamining fire suppression impacts on brushland fire regimes. Science, 284 (5421), 1829–1832.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  21. Keeley JE, Fotheringham CJ (2000) Historic fire regime in southern California shrublands. Conservation Biology, 15 (6), 1536–1548.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  22. Kotok EI, Kraebel CJ (1935) Discussion of “Flood and erosion control problems and their solution”. ASCE Transactions, 101, 1350–1355.Google Scholar
  23. Melton MA (1965) The geomorphic and paleoclimatic significance of alluvial deposits in southern Arizona. Journal of Geology, 73, 1–38.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  24. Minnich, RA (1989) Chaparral fire history in San Diego County and adjacent northern Baja California: An evaluation of natural fire regimes and the effects of suppression management. Keeley, SC (ed.), The California chaparral, Los Angeles Natural History Museum Series 34, 37–47.Google Scholar
  25. Moody JA, Martin DA, Cannon SH (2008) Post-wildfire erosion response in two geologic terrains in the western USA. Geomorphology, 95, 103–118.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  26. Pierce JL, Meyer GA, Timothy Jull, AJ (2004) Fire-induced erosion and millennial-scale climate change in northern ponderosa pine forests. Nature, 432, 87–90.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  27. Radeloff VC, Hammer RB, Stewart, SI, Fried, JS, Holcomb, SS, McKeefryJF (2005). The Wildland Urban Interface in the United States. Ecological Applications, 15, 799–805.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  28. Santi PM, deWolf VG, Higgins JE, Cannon SH, Gartner JE (2008) Sources of debris flow material in burned areas. Geomorphology, 96, 310–321.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  29. Scott KM (1971) Origin and sedimentology of 1969 debris flows near Glendora, California. US Geological Survey Prof. Paper 750-C, C242–C247.Google Scholar
  30. Running SW (2006) Is global warming causing more, larger wildfires? Science, 313, 927–928.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  31. Swetnam TW, Betancourt JL (1990) Fire-Southern Oscillation relations in the southwestern United States. Science 249, 1017–1020.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  32. Trouet V, Taylor AH, Carleton AM, Skinner CN (2008) Interannual variations in fire weather, fire extent, and synoptic-scale circulation patterns in northern California and Oregon. Theoretical and Applied Climatology, Online First, SpringerLink, DOI 10.1007/s00704-008-0012-x.Google Scholar
  33. Wells WG II (1981) Some effects of brushfires on erosion processes in coastal Southern California. In: Erosion and Sediment Transport in Pacific Rim Steeplands, Christchurch, New Zealand, International Association of Hydrological Science, 132, 305–342.Google Scholar
  34. Wells WG II (1987) The effects of fire on the generation of debris flows in southern California. Geological Society of America Reviews in Engineering Geology, 7, 105–114.Google Scholar
  35. Wentz, FJ, Ricciardulli, L, Hilburn, K, Mills, C (2007) How much more rain will global warming bring? Science, 317, 233–235.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  36. Westerling AL, Hildalgo HG, Cayan DR, Swetnam TW (2006) Warming and earlier spring increase western U.S. forest wildfire activity. Science, 313(5789), 940–943.CrossRefGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag Berlin Heidelberg 2009

Authors and Affiliations

  • Susan H. Cannon
    • 1
  • Jerry DeGraff
    • 2
  1. 1.U.S. Geological SurveyUSA
  2. 2.U.S.D.A. Forest Service, Sierra National ForestClovis93611

Personalised recommendations