National Aeronautics and Space Administration

National Climate Assessment

NASA National Climate Assessment (NCA) Activities

NASA Centers Call for Proposals

National Climate Assessment - 2011 NASA Centers Call For Proposals

Lead PI and Center: George Collatz, Goddard Space Flight Center
Title: Assessment of Climate Change Impacts on Fire Activity in the US
Proposal Type: Assessment Capabilities & Products
News article about research:

Detailed information regarding the timing, duration, and extent of burning in different ecosystems is critical for projecting future fire activity. In response to this need for regional scale information on fires and their associated greenhouse gas emissions in the U.S., we will use an existing a model-data framework that estimates fire emissions from satellite observations of active fires and burned area. This framework, CASA-GFED (Carnegie- Ames-Stanford-Approach Global Fire Emissions Database), provides monthly estimates of global burned area and fire emissions at 0.5° spatial resolution. Outputs from CASA-GFED have been extensively evaluated by the atmospheric and land science communities. The second and third versions of the model are used to create inputs for assessments of carbon cycle dynamics (e.g., Carbon Tracker US) and scenarios of climate change, including both Integrated Assessment Models and Earth System Models, thus contributing to the IPCC Fifth Assessment Report (AR5). In addition, the CASA-GFED approach provides a robust characterization of current fire-climate relationships (1997-2011) that can be used to estimate near-term (10-30 year) changes in fire activity associated with climate change.

Proposed Effort:
Here, we propose to apply our existing model to develop indicators of current and future fire activity and emissions for all NCA sub-regions except Hawaii and the Pacific islands. Climate-fire relationships will be developed independently for different fire types within each region, including grassland, woodland, forest, and agricultural fires. Climate information will be used to estimate the influence of temperature and precipitation anomalies and other derived climate indices, including large-scale climate phenomena (e.g., ENSO, PDO), on interannual variability in both burned area and fire emissions from existing GFED3 model runs (1997-present). The vulnerability of ecosystems to fire under future climate conditions will then be assessed based on climate-fire relationships established during the period of satellite observations and near-term climate projections (10-30 years) developed for IPCC AR5. Climate and fuel condition indicators for each region will be provided to inform near-term and future adaptation and mitigation strategies for changes in fire activity.

We anticipate that our assessment of climate change impacts on fire activity in the US will generate important contributions to sections of the National Climate Assessment (NCA) in 2013. Fire impacts are particularly important for five sectors in each region: natural environment (ecosystems), agriculture, forestry, land resources and land use change, and human health and welfare. At the national scale, the assessment of climate change impacts on US fire activity will also inform cross-cutting sections of the NCA 2013 on biogeochemical cycles and extreme events. Finally, we propose to assess the sensitivity of future fire activity to management scenarios including fire suppression and fuel management. We will use Monte Carlo methods to propagate uncertainties in fire emissions from the CASA-GFED model to characterize the likelihood of regional impacts from fire and develop recommendations to improve future assessments. The proposed research on climate-fire interactions in the US leverages the existing CASA-GFED model framework, developed with NASA support since 2000, and incorporates a range of data products from NASA EOS instruments on board the Terra and Aqua platforms.

Project Publications:

Morton DC, Collatz GJ, Wang D, Randerson JT, Giglio L, Chen Y. (2013).  Satellite-based assessment of climate controls on US Burned Area.  Biogeosciences 10: 247-260, doi:10.5194/bg-10-247-2013.

Lin W-W, McCarty JL, Wang D, Rogers BM, Morton DC, Collatz GJ, Jin, Y, Randerson JT. (2014) Management and climate contributions to satellite-derived active fire trends in the contiguous United States. Journal of Geophysical Research: Biogeosciences 119,doi:10.1002/2013JG002382.