Climate change projected to reduce prescribed burning opportunities in the south-eastern United States

International Journal of Wildland Fire
By: , and 



Prescribed burning is a critical tool for managing wildfire risks and meeting ecological objectives, but its safe and effective application requires that specific meteorological criteria (a ‘burn window’) are met. Here, we evaluate the potential impacts of projected climatic change on prescribed burning in the south-eastern United States by applying a set of burn window criteria that capture temperature, relative humidity and wind speed to projections from an ensemble of Global Climate Models under two greenhouse gas emission scenarios. Regionally, the percentage of suitable days for burning changes little during winter but decreases substantially in summer owing to rising temperatures by the end of the 21st century compared with historical conditions. Management implications of such changes for six representative land management units include seasonal shifts in burning opportunities from summer to cool-season months, but with considerable regional variation. We contend that the practical constraints of rising temperatures on prescribed fire activities represent a significant future challenge and show that even meeting basic burn criteria (as defined today) will become increasingly difficult over time, which speaks to the need for adaptive management strategies to prepare for such changes.

Study Area

Publication type Article
Publication Subtype Journal Article
Title Climate change projected to reduce prescribed burning opportunities in the south-eastern United States
Series title International Journal of Wildland Fire
DOI 10.1071/WF19198
Volume 29
Issue 9
Year Published 2020
Language English
Publisher CSIRO Publishing
Contributing office(s) Southeast Climate Adaptation Science Center
Description 15 p.
First page 764
Last page 778
Country United States
State Alabama, Arkansas, Florida, Georgia, kentucky, Louisiana, Mississippi, Missouri, North Carolina, Oklahoma, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas, Virginia, West Virginia
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