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Project ID: 03-1-1-07

Year: 2003

Date Started: 07/29/2003

Date Completed: 09/11/2006

Title: Climate Drivers of Fire and Fuel in the Northern Rockies: Past, Present, and Future

Project Proposal Abstract: We propose a 3-year research project to identify the climate drivers of regional fire and fuel dynamics in the Northern Rockies in the past, present, and future. We will identify regional fire years from two sources: multicentury tree-ring reconstructions and multidecadal fire atlases. To elucidate the climate forcing of past fires, we will reconstruct the occurrence of regional fire years from synchrony in fire-scar dates among at least 15 widely separated sites in the region. The fire histories that have previously been reconstructed in the Northern Rockies were not crossdated and so cannot be used to elucidate the climate forcing of fire at the annual time scales that are critical for fire management. To elucidate present, i.e., twentieth-century, climate forcing of fires, we will use previously digitized fire atlases from at least 11 national forest in the region. In spite of their potential for identifying synchronous and extensive regional fire years, fire atlases have not yet been used to assess fire-climate relationships. To elucidate future climate forcing of fire, we will use simulation modeling. We will parameterize the simulation model LANDSUM using the past and present climate forcing we derive from fire atlases and fire scars. We will model the degree to which fuels management has influenced fire extent during modern regional fire years, and simulate the future consequences of fuels management. We will submit 5 manuscripts to refereed journals and educate two M.S. graduate students. To ensure that our results are useful to fire managers, we will present our results at four to six meetings and two workshops with managers. Increasingly, it is possible to predict climate for future fire seasons, so our information will help fire managers anticipate when fire management must focus primarily on fire suppression versus fuel management, and where such fuel management is likely to affect fire behavior during future regional fire years. Our research thus addresses Task 1 of JFSP AFP 2003-1, which calls for "characterizing past, present and future fuel and fIre regimes" under "changing climate and altered climate variability." Through planned workshops and technology transfer activities, we will also provide "applications for long-range fire management planning."

Principal Investigator: Penny Morgan

Agency/Organization: University of Idaho

Branch or Dept: Department of Forest Resources

Other Project Collaborators




Branch or Dept

Co-Principal Investigator

Carol L. Miller

Forest Service

RMRS-Aldo Leopold Wilderness Research Institute

Co-Principal Investigator

Matthew G. Rollins

Forest Service

WO-Research & Development

Federal Cooperator

Emily K. Heyerdahl

Forest Service

RMRS-Fire Sciences Lab-Missoula

Project Locations

Fire Science Exchange Network

Northern Rockies


There are no project locations identified for this project.

Project Deliverables

Final Report view or print

("Results presented in JFSP Final Reports may not have been peer-reviewed and should be interpreted as tentative until published in a peer-reviewed source.")

  ID Type Title
    1225 Government Publication Fire and Climate in the Northern Rockies
view or print go to website 1226 Government Publication How to Recognize Old Ponderosa Pine Trees That Have Seen Lots of Fire
    1232 Government Publication Outreach Letter Written to Land Managers When We Were Assembling Data for the Fire Atlas
    1233 Government Publication Fire History of a Western Montana Ponderosa Pine Grassland: A Pilot Study
    1235 Government Publication Professional Paper Series No. 23. pp. 30-36.
    994 Government Publication Short Reports on Local Historical Fire Regimes for Each Fire-Scar Site
view or print   1526 Government Publication Condition of Live Fire-Scarred Ponderosa Pine Trees Six Years After Removing Partial Cross Sections
view or print   3035 Journal Article Fire Ecology Special Issue
    237 MS Thesis A Northern Rocky Mountain Polygon Fire History: Accuracy, Limitations, Strengths, Applications, and Recommended Protocol of Digital Fire Perimeter Data (C.E. Gibson)
    280 MS Thesis Historical Fire Records: Comparison of Fire Scars, Fire Atlases, and Satellite Data in the Northwestern United States (L.B. Shapiro)
  go to website 2687 Dataset (including spatial) International Multiproxy Paleofire Database
  go to website 2688 Dataset (including spatial) International Multiproxy Paleofire Database
  go to website 2689 Website  
    2695 Conference/Symposia/Workshop Climate Drivers of Historical Surface Fires in the Northern Rocky Mountains, USA: Preliminary Results
    1970 Field Demonstration/Tour  
    5634 Conference/Symposia/Workshop Climate Drivers of Fire in the Northern Rocky Mountains: Past, Present, and Future

Supporting Documents

The following supporting documents are available for this project.

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