Canadian Forest Service Publications
Correlations between forest fires in British Columbia, Canada, and sea surface temperature of the Pacific Ocean. 2009. Wang, Y.; Flannigan, M.D.; Anderson, K.R. Ecological Modelling 221(1): 122-129.
Issued by: Northern Forestry Centre
Catalog ID: 29342
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Correlations and cross-correlations between forest fires in the province of British Columbia, Canada, and sea surface temperatures in the Pacific Ocean were evaluated. British Columbia has a long Pacific Ocean coastline; given that there may be teleconnections between the province's forest fires and climate variability over the ocean, significant correlations may exist between forest fires and the sea surface temperature of the Pacific Ocean. Fire occurrences and areas burned through lightning-caused and human-caused fires were analyzed against individual 1° × 1° grid cells of anomalies in the sea surface temperature to determine correlations for the period 1950–2006. Significant correlations (p < 0.05) for vast areas of the ocean were found between occurrences of lightning-caused fires and sea surface temperature anomalies for time lags of 1 and 2 years, whereas significant correlations between occurrences of human-caused fires and sea surface temperature anomalies occurred extensively for many time lags. To support the results of this approach, correlations between fire data and the Niño 3.4, Pacific Decadal Oscillation, and Arctic Oscillation indices were tested for the same period. Significant correlations were found between fire occurrences and these indices at certain time lags. Overall, fire occurrence appeared to be more extensively correlated with sea surface temperature anomalies than was area burned. These results support the hypothesis that teleconnections exist between fire activity in British Columbia and sea surface temperatures in the Pacific Ocean, and the correlations suggest that linear regression models or other regression techniques may be appropriate for predicting fire severity from the sea surface temperatures of one or more previous years.