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.
|Pages (from-to)||4694 - 4699|
|Number of pages||6|
|Journal||Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America|
|Early online date||21 May 2005|
|Publication status||Published - 2005|