Canadian Forest Service Publications

Prediction of seasonal forest fire severity in Canada from large-scale climate patterns. 2011. Shabbar, A.; Skinner, W.; Flannigan, M.D. Journal of Applied Meteorology and Climatology 50(4):785-799.

Year: 2011

Issued by: Northern Forestry Centre

Catalog ID: 32340

Language: English

Availability: PDF (request by e-mail)

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An empirical scheme for predicting the meteorological conditions that lead to summer forest fire severity for Canada using the multivariate singular value decomposition (SVD) has been developed for the 1953–2007 period. The levels and sources of predictive skill have been estimated using a cross-validation design. The predictor fields are global sea surface temperatures (SST) and Palmer drought severity index. Two consecutive 3-month predictor periods are used to detect evolving conditions in the predictor fields. Correlation, mean absolute error, and percent correct verification statistics are used to assess forecast model performance. Nationally averaged skills are shown to be statistically significant, which suggests that they are suitable for application to forest fire prediction and for management purposes. These forecasts average a 0.33 correlation skill across Canada and greater than 0.6 in the forested regions from the Yukon, through northern Prairie Provinces, northern Ontario, and central Quebec into Newfoundland. SVD forecasts generally outperform persistence forecasts. The importance of the leading two SVD modes to Canadian summer forest fire severity, accounting for approximately 95% of the squared covariance, is emphasized. The first mode relates strongly to interdecadal trend in global SST. Between 1953 and 2007 the western tropical Pacific, the Indian, and the North Atlantic Oceans have tended to warm while the northeastern Pacific and the extreme Southern Hemisphere oceans have shown a cooling trend. During the same period, summer forest fire exhibited increased severity across the large boreal forest region of Canada. The SVD diagnostics also indicate that the El Niño–Southern Oscillation and the Pacific decadal oscillation play a significant role in Canadian fire severity. Warm episodes (El Niño) tend to be associated with severe fire conditions over the Yukon, parts of the northern Prairie Provinces, and central Quebec. The linearity of the SVD manifests opposite response during the cold (La Niña) events.