Average Annual Wildfire Number and Size Increasing in the Great Plains

GR: Large fires occur during periods of high temperature and drought. The fire increase across the North American Great Plains is typical of many other regions undergoing fire regime changes as the Earth warms. Fueled by increasing temperature, drought, and invasive species, the fires will continue increasing. A study appearing in Geophysical Research Papers (GRP) documented dramatic changes since 1985. The study abstract follows the images.

Wildfire grasslands disaster, North American Great Plains, Lon Tonneson

Large wildfire trends in the western United States, 1984–2011
Authors: Philip E. Dennison, Simon C. Brewer, James D. Arnold, Max A. Moritz (Geophysical Research Letters, April 25, 2014)

Abstract

“Rapid changes in wildfire patterns are documented globally, increasing pressure to identify regions that may experience increases in wildfire in future decades. Temperate grassland and savanna biomes were some of the most frequently burned regions on Earth, however large wildfires have been largely absent from the Great Plains of North America over the last century. In this paper, we conduct an in-depth analysis of changes in large wildfire (>400 ha) regime characteristics over a 30 year period across the Great Plains. For the entire biome, (i) the average number of large wildfires increased from 33.4 + 5.6 per year from 1985-1994 to 116.8 + 28.8 wildfires per year from 2005-2014, (ii) total area burned by large wildfires increased 400%, (iii) over half the ecoregions had greater than a 70% probability of a large wildfire occurring in the last decade, and (iv) seasonality of large wildfires remained relatively similar.” –Victoria M. Donovan, Carissa L. Wonkka, Dirac Twidwell. (Accepted  for publication by GRP)

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