Climate Change, Growth, and California Wildfire
Westerling, Anthony LeRoy
Bryant, B. P.
Preisler, Haiganoush K.
Hidalgo León, Hugo G.
Sudhir Raj Shrestha
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Large wildfire occurrence and burned area are modeled using hydroclimate and landsurface characteristics under a range of future climate and development scenarios. The range of uncertainty for future wildfire regimes is analyzed over two emissions pathways (the Special Report on Emissions Scenarios [SRES] A2 and B1 scenarios); three global climate models (Centre National de Recherches Météorologiques CM3, Geophysical Fluid Dynamics Laboratory CM21 and National Center for Atmospheric Research PCM2); a mid‐range scenario for future population growth and development footprint; two model specifications related to the uncertainty over the speed and timing with which vegetation characteristics will shift their spatial distributions in response to trends in climate and disturbance; and two thresholds for defining the wildland‐urban interface relative to housing density. Results were assessed for three 30‐year time periods centered on 2020, 2050, and 2085, relative to a 30‐year reference period centered on 1975. Substantial increases in wildfire are anticipated for most scenarios, although the range of outcomes is large and increases with time. The increase in wildfire area burned associated with the higher emissions pathway (SRES A2) is substantial, with increases statewide ranging from 57 percent to 169 percent by 2085, and increases exceeding 100 percent in most of the forest areas of Northern California in every SRES A2 scenario by 2085. The spatial patterns associated with increased fire occurrence vary according to the speed with which the distribution of vegetation types shifts on the landscape in response to climate and disturbance, with greater increases in fire area burned tending to occur in coastal southern California, the Monterey Bay area and northern California Coast ranges in scenarios where vegetation types shift more rapidly.
- Meteorología