Predicted Megafire Locations under Future Climate Scenarios in the Contiguous United States
Wednesday, 17 December 2014
Over the past several years, large high-intensity wildfires, or “megafires,” have set records for the greatest burn area and most costly fires in several U.S. states. Megafires can release many tons of fine particles and other pollutants that are hazardous to human health over a short period of time. Under future climate scenarios, megafires may increase in some regions. The danger of smoke exposure from megafires in the future depends on several spatial factors, including the likelihood of megafire occurrence, emission rates, air transport patterns, and population density. We combined climatological transport modeling, smoke emission rates, and population density to determine the areas within the U.S. where a megafire would result in the greatest human exposure to smoke. Coupled with a synthesis of recent studies on the likelihood of megafire occurrence under future climate scenarios, these results provide a view of future smoke management and emergency response needs.