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Project ID: 09-2-01-10

Year: 2009

Date Started: 07/01/2009

Date Completed: 02/07/2012

Title: Fire and Climate Change in the Western US: A New Synthesis for Land Management

Project Proposal Abstract: A recent surge of scientific publications and interest in fire climatology derives in part from two new paradigms in climatology: (1) the discovery and understanding of broad-scale ocean-atmosphere oscillations (e.g., El NiƱo Southern-Oscillation) and their teleconnections to regional and continental temperature, precipitation and fire regimes, and (2) the mounting evidence of warming trends occurring at local to global scales that are largely driven by increasing greenhouse gases in the atmosphere, and concurrent increases in areas burned and the length of fire seasons. In addition to these developments, fire and climate history datasets have greatly expanded and improved in the past decade. The increased availability of these datasets has facilitated a substantial increase in the literature of fire climatology encompassing both paleo (i.e., pre 1900) and modern time periods, especially for the western United States. Although many new insights have been gained, there is no overall, synthetic review or summary of western U.S. fire climatology literature to date. Nor is there a clear and comprehensive regionalization (from the literature or data) of fire-climate patterns, teleconnections, lagging relationships, etc., or evaluation of unknowns and limitations of fire climatology. Furthermore, we are in the early developmental stages of facilitating access to and use of fire history and fire climatology information by managers and policy makers (e.g., Predictive Services products). We also have much to learn from past fire-climate events and management/policy responses. We propose to carry out a project that meets the needs of syntheses, improved data access and communication, and learning from past management experiences and policy evolution. In particular, we propose to: (1) Review and synthesize existing literature, and conduct a quantitative evaluation of fire and climate history time series to define a geography of fire climatology of the western U.S. (lower 11 states). (2) Incorporate the fire-climate synthesis results into a set of existing online management decision support tools that have recently been developed as part of the International Multi-Proxy PaleoFire Database. The goal of this component will be to inform managers and decision makers about relationships between climate and fire under past, present, and potential future climate regimes. (3) Conduct a series of workshops and interviews with fire managers to define and explore the applications of fire climatology in fire management (especially resource allocation, appropriate management response, and fuels treatments), and to learn from past management responses to fire-climate events, and the resulting policy changes.

Principal Investigator: Thomas W. Swetnam

Agency/Organization: University of Arizona-Tucson

Branch or Dept: Laboratory of Tree-Ring Research

Other Project Collaborators




Branch or Dept

Co-Principal Investigator

Peter M. Brown

Rocky Mountain Tree-Ring Research, Inc

Co-Principal Investigator

Timothy J. Brown

Desert Research Institute

Division of Atmospheric Sciences (DAS)

Co-Principal Investigator

Donald A. Falk

University of Arizona-Tucson

School of Natural Resources & the Environment

Co-Principal Investigator

Elaine K. Sutherland

Forest Service

RMRS-Fire Sciences Lab-Missoula

Federal Cooperator

Elaine K. Sutherland

Forest Service

RMRS-Fire Sciences Lab-Missoula

Federal Fiscal Representative

Susan T. Major

Forest Service

RMRS-Rocky Mountain Research Station

Project Locations



Great Basin

Northern Rockies


Southern Rockies







Pacific Coast States



Interior West


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
  go to website 61 Book The Landscape Ecology of Fire
view or print go to website 3030 Journal Article Human Pyrogeography: A New Synergy of Fire, Climate and People is Reshaping Ecosystems across the Globe
  go to website 5264 Book or Book Chapter Climatic Inferences from Dendroecological Reconstructions
    4729 Conference/Symposia/Workshop Fire and Climate Change Synthesis Workshop
view or print go to website 4730 Invited Paper/Presentation Using Climate Information for Risk Mitigation and Objective Achievement in Managed Fire
  go to website 4731 Invited Paper/Presentation Pyrogeography Across Western North America: How Climate has Affected Fire Regimes and Fire History Across the West, and Where we May be Going in the Future
  go to website 4907 Book or Book Chapter The Landscape Ecology of Fire
  go to website 4915 Invited Paper/Presentation KUAT, KUAZ interviews with co-PI D.A. Falk, Arizona Illustrated and Arizona Public Radio
    4916 Conference/Symposia/Workshop Multiscale Analysis of Synchrony in Dendrochronology
    4917 Invited Paper/Presentation Ecosystems at Tipping Points: Lessons and Opportunities in the 2011 Fire Season
    5101 Conference/Symposia/Workshop Cross-Scale Research in Forest Dynamics
    5102 Invited Paper/Presentation Thinking About Fire as an Earth System Process
    5103 Invited Paper/Presentation Fire and Forest Histories of Central Oregon From Tree Rings
view or print   5104 Invited Paper/Presentation Toward a Theory of Landscape Fire
    5105 Conference/Symposia/Workshop Landscape and Climatic Context of Fire as an Earth System Process
    5106 Invited Paper/Presentation Research in Fire and Restoration Ecology
    5107 Poster A Fire and Climate Synthesis (FACS) for the United States: Past, Present, and Future. Fourth International Conference in Fire Ecology & Management: Fire as a Global Process
    5306 Training Session Lecture to M-580 Fire in Ecosystem Management
    5307 Training Session Lectures to S-580 Advanced Fire Management Applications
    4958 Invited Paper/Presentation Ecosystem Disturbance, Resilience, and Restoration
view or print   5157 Invited Paper/Presentation Insights From Long-Term, Regional to Global Fire History: Progress in Using Tree Rings & Charcoal Paleofire Proxies
    3966 Invited Paper/Presentation Fire History Reconstructions from Tree-Ring Data: An International Perspective
    3967 Invited Paper/Presentation Climate Forcing of Ecosystem Processes: The View from Tree Rings
    4447 Conference/Symposia/Workshop Critique of Superposed Epoch Analysis for Fire History Studies
  go to website 3990 Invited Paper/Presentation Continental to Global-Scale Fire History from Tree-Rings: Progress and Prospects
    3991 Invited Paper/Presentation Taffe Lecture: Fire and Climate
    3992 Invited Paper/Presentation Fire and Climate-Collaborative Adaptive Management Network Symposium
    3993 Invited Paper/Presentation Historical Range of Variability, Fire, and Climate
    3994 Conference/Symposia/Workshop Talk and Participation at National Center for Ecological Synthesis and Analyses Workshop
    3995 Invited Paper/Presentation Status of Fire and Climate in Tree-Ring Analysis
    4226 Conference/Symposia/Workshop Talk and Participation at National Center for Ecological Synthesis and Analyses Workshop
    4227 Invited Paper/Presentation Climate of the Past 2,000 Years
    4228 Invited Paper/Presentation Climate Change and Natural Resources: A Historical Perspective
    4229 Conference/Symposia/Workshop Basis and Application of Superposed Epoch Analysis for Climate/Fire Relationship Analysis
    4009 Training Session Brown, P.M. Classes in which the data have been presented (Colorado State University): Forest Ecology (F311, Fall 2010); Fire Effects and Adaptations (F424, Fall 2010); Graduate Fire Ecology (F624, Spring 2011); Ecology of Landscapes (LAND 444, Spring and Fall 2011).
    4041 Invited Paper/Presentation Pinyon-Juniper Woodlands, Fire, and Climate
    4042 Invited Paper/Presentation Climate Change, Fire, and Water
  go to website 4043 Invited Paper/Presentation Climate Change and the Future of the American West
    4044 Invited Paper/Presentation Radio Interview: Fire and Climate in the Southwest
    4045 Invited Paper/Presentation Historical Range of Variability in Paleobiology
    4046 Invited Paper/Presentation Radio Interview: Fire and Climate in the Southwest
    4278 Conference/Symposia/Workshop A New Java-Based Tool for Performing Superposed Epoch Analysis in Dendrochronology
    4279 Conference/Symposia/Workshop Critique of Superposed Epoch Analysis for Fire History Studies
    6254 Invited Paper/Presentation Wildfire, Economics, and Policy
    6335 Training Session Swetnam, T.W. See part 2 of Climate Change and Fire/Land Management Challenges.
    6336 Invited Paper/Presentation Planning Tools and Perspectives on Adaptation and Mitigation Options
    5922 Invited Paper/Presentation Climate Forcing of Ecosystem Processes: The View from Tree Rings
    5668 Invited Paper/Presentation Pyrogeography of Western North America

Supporting Documents

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