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32nd Annual Arctic Workshop Abstracts
March 14-16, 2002
INSTAAR, University of Colorado at Boulder

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QUANTIFYING THE LINK BETWEEN CLIMATE AND FIRE IN ALASKA

AUTHORS

DUFFY, PAUL A. University of Alaska Fairbanks.
Rupp, Scott . University of Alaska Fairbanks.
Mann, Daniel H. University of Alaska Fairbanks.
Graham, Jonathan M. University of Montana Missoula.

Increased awareness of the role disturbance mechanisms play in shaping the spatio-temporal distribution and functional characteristics of vegetation has identified a need to characterize transient ecosystem dynamics. Transient dynamics are the short-term interactions resulting from feedbacks that occur between climate, vegetation, and disturbance factors in ecosystems during rapid climatic changes. The development of landscape-level vegetation models requires the integration of transient ecosystem dynamics in a regional and global framework. Informing these Dynamic Global Vegetation Models (DGVMs) with respect to disturbance processes operating at the landscape-scale is a critical step in model development. This study quantifies the link between climate and fire in the boreal forest of Alaska. Specifically, we developed a statistical model that regresses the natural logarithm of the total annual hectares burned on average monthly temperature, precipitation, and atmospheric teleconnection indices. Climate changes occurring at multiple temporal scales are coupled and the importance of the scale considered depends on the response of interest. Model results support the contention that atmospheric teleconnections operating on decadal to sub-decadal time scales influence fire regime through impacts on monthly climate in Alaska. The statistical model identifies five climatological variables that collectively explain over 65% of the variability in the natural logarithm of hectares burned per year in Alaska. These variables are linked to fuel moisture dynamics, and synoptic weather events that drive fire ignition and spread. Quantification of the link between climate and fire in Alaska is not only essential for accurate simulation of disturbance processes operating at the landscape-scale but also a valuable tool for planning fire management activities.

 

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