Canadian Forest Service Publications
Future burn probability in south-central British Columbia. 2016. Wang, X.; Parisien, M.-A.; Taylor, S.W.; Perrakis, D.D.; Little, J.; Flannigan, M.D. International Journal of Wildland Fire 25(2):200-212.
Issued by: Northern Forestry Centre
Catalog ID: 36543
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Little is known about how changing climates will affect the processes controlling fire ignition and spread. This study examines the effect of climate change on the factors that drive fire activity in a highly heterogeneous region of southcentral British Columbia. Future fire activity was evaluated using Burn-P3, a simulation model used to estimate spatial burn probability (BP) by simulating a very large number of fires. We modified the following factors in the future projections of BP: (1) fuels (vegetation), (2) ignitions (number of fires), and (3) weather (daily conditions and duration of fires). Our results showed that the future climate will increase the number of fires and fire-conducive weather, leading to widespread BP increases. However, the conversion of current forest types to vegetation that is not as flammable may partially counteract the effect of increasing fire weather severity. The top-down factors (ignitions and weather) yield future BPs that are spatially coherent with the current patterns, whereas the changes due to future vegetation are highly divergent from today’s BP. This study provides a framework for assessing the effect of specific agents of change on fire ignition and spread in landscapes with complex fire–climate–vegetation interactions.
Plain Language Summary
The prediction of climate change impacts on future fire occurrence is possibly one of the most complex and challenging problems in fire science today. The goal of this study is to examine the effect of climate change on the processes that drive the ignition and spread of wildfires in south-central British Columbia. We evaluated future fire activity using the Burn-P3 software, which maps fire probabilities for a given region. Using Burn-P3, we assessed how future changes in vegetation, the number of fires, and daily weather (i.e., the three experimental “factors”) will affect future fire probabilities. The results show that all of these factors will have a significant yet substantially different effect on fire probabilities. Our results suggest that the number of fires, as well as the extremes in hot, dry, windy weather, will probably increase as a result of climate change. However, potential changes in vegetation types may greatly limit the potential for fires to become large. In other words, in south-central British Columbia, the conversion of current vegetation types to less flammable forms in the future may partly negate the effect of weather that is more conducive to the ignition and spread of wildfires. This study examines the effect of climate change on the processes that ignite and spread wildfires in south-central British Columbia. The number of fires, as well as hot, dry, windy weather, will probably increase. However, vegetation types may convert to less flammable forms, which may limit the potential for fires to become large.