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

  • Susan H. Cannon
  • Jerry DeGraff


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.


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


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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

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