Publication Details

The theory, direction, and magnitude of ecosystem fire probability as constrained by precipitation and temperature

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Guyette, Richard; Stambaugh, Michael C.; Dey, Daniel; Muzika, Rose Marie; Bond-Lamberty, Ben

Year Published

2017

Publication

PLOS ONE

Abstract

The effects of climate on wildland fire confronts society across a range of different ecosystems. Water and temperature affect the combustion dynamics, irrespective of whether those are associated with carbon fueled motors or ecosystems, but through different chemical, physical, and biological processes. We use an ecosystem combustion equation developed with the physical chemistry of atmospheric variables to estimate and simulate fire probability and mean fire interval (MFI). The calibration of ecosystem fire probability with basic combustion chemistry and physics offers a quantitative method to address wildland fire in addition to the well-studied forcing factors such as topography, ignition, and vegetation. We develop a graphic analysis tool for estimating climate forced fire probability with temperature and precipitation based on an empirical assessment of combustion theory and fire prediction in ecosystems. Climate-affected fire probability for any period, past or future, is estimated with given temperature and precipitation. A graphic analyses of wildland fire dynamics driven by climate supports a dialectic in hydrologic processes that affect ecosystem combustion: 1) the water needed by plants to produce carbon bonds (fuel) and 2) the inhibition of successful reactant collisions by water molecules (humidity and fuel moisture). These two postulates enable a classification scheme for ecosystems into three or more climate categories using their position relative to change points defined by precipitation in combustion dynamics equations. Three classifications of combustion dynamics in ecosystems fire probability include: 1) precipitation insensitive, 2) precipitation unstable, and 3) precipitation sensitive. All three classifications interact in different ways with variable levels of temperature.

Citation

Guyette, Richard; Stambaugh, Michael C.; Dey, Daniel; Muzika, Rose Marie; Bond-Lamberty, Ben. 2017. The theory, direction, and magnitude of ecosystem fire probability as constrained by precipitation and temperature. PLOS ONE. 12(7): e0180956-. https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0180956.

Last updated on: August 29, 2017