Impacts of climate change on large forest wildfire of Washington and Oregon

Wednesday, 17 December 2014
Zhiqiang Yang, Oregon State University, Corvallis, OR, United States, Raymond J Davis, USDA Forest Service, Pacific Northwest Region, Corvallis, United States, Andrew Yost, Oregon Department of Forestry, Salem, United States and Warren B. Cohen, US Forest Service Corvallis, Corvallis, OR, United States
Climate changes in the 21st century were projected to have major impact on wildfire. The state of Washington and Oregon contains a tightly coupled forest ecosystem and fire regime. The objective of this study was to examine the impact of future climate changes for large wildfire in the two states. MAXENT algorithm was used to develop a large forest wildfire suitability model using historical fire for the 1971-2000 time period and validated for 1981-2010 time period . Input variables include climate (e.g. July-August temperature) and topographic variables (e.g. elevation). The model test AUC of 0.77±0.1. Using the predicted versus expected curve and methods described by Hirzel and others (Hirzel et al. 2006), we reclassified the model into four classes; low suitability (0-0.36), moderate suitability 0.36-0.5), high suitability (0.5-0.75), and very high suitability (0.75-1.0). To examine the future climate change impact, climate scenarios (RCP 2.6, RCP 4.5, RCP 6.0, and RCP 8.5) from 33 different climate models were used to predict the large wildfire suitability from 1971-2100 using the NASA Earth Exchange (NEX) Downscaled Climate Projections (NEX-DCP30) dataset. Results from ensembles of all the climate scenarios showed that the area with high and very high suitability for large wildfire increased under all 4 climate scenarios from 1971 to 2100. However, under RCP 2.6, the area start to decline from 2080 while the other three scenarios keep increasing. On the extreme case of RCP 8.5, very high suitable area increases from less than 1% during 1971-2000 to 14.9% during 2070-2100. Details about temporal patterns for the study area and changes by ecoregions will be presented.