Moritz M. A., T. J. Moody, M. A. Krawchuk, M. Hughes and A. Hall (February 2010): Spatial variation in extreme winds predicts large wildfire locations in chaparral ecosystem. Geophys. Res. Lett., 37, L04801. doi:10.1029/2009GL041735

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Fire plays a crucial role in many ecosystems, and a better understanding of different controls on fire activity is needed. Here we analyze spatial variation in fire danger during episodic wind events in coastal southern California, a densely populated Mediterranean-climate region. By reconstructing almost a decade of fire weather patterns through detailed simulations of Santa Ana winds, we produced the first high-resolution map of where these hot, dry winds are consistently most severe and which areas are relatively sheltered. We also analyzed over half a century of mapped fire history in chaparral ecosystems of the region, finding that our models successfully predict where the largest wildfires are most likely to occur. There is a surprising lack of information about extreme wind patterns worldwide, and more quantitative analyses of their spatial variation will be important for effective fire management and sustainable long-term urban development on fire-prone landscapes.

Item Type: Article
Subjects: PSD Publications
Divisions: Physical Sciences Division
DOI: 10.1029/2009GL041735