Characterizing wildfire regimes in the USA

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

191 Citations (Scopus)


Wildfires statistics for the conterminous United States (U.S.) are examined in a spatially and temporally explicit manner. We use a high-resolution data set consisting of 88,916 U.S. Department of Agriculture Forest Service wildfires over the time period 1970-2000 and consider wildfire occurrence as a function of ecoregion (land units classified by climate, vegetation, and topography), ignition source (anthropogenic vs. lightning), and decade. For the conterminous U.S., we (i) find that wildfires exhibit robust frequency-area power-law behavior in 18 different ecoregions; (ii) use normalized power-law exponents to compare the scaling of wildfire-burned areas between ecoregions, finding a systematic change from east to west; (iii) find that wildfires in the eastern third of the U.S. have higher power-law exponents for anthropogenic vs. lightning ignition sources; and (iv) calculate recurrence intervals for wildfires of a given burned area or larger for each ecoregion, allowing for the classification of wildfire regimes for probabilistic hazard estimation in the same vein as is now used for earthquakes.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)4694 - 4699
Number of pages6
JournalProceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America
Issue number13
Early online date21 May 2005
Publication statusPublished - 2005


Dive into the research topics of 'Characterizing wildfire regimes in the USA'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this