West RISA researcher co-authors new publications on simulations of wildfire burn severity maps

  • 28 September 2022
West RISA researcher co-authors new publications on simulations of wildfire burn severity maps

Leroy Westerling, a researcher with the California-Nevada Climate Applications Program (CNAP), a NOAA RISA team, co-authored a study titled, “Simulating burn severity maps at 30 meters in two forested regions in California.” Climate change is altering wildfire behavior and vegetation in forested regions.

Historically, California wildfires occurred more frequently at a lower severity which reduced surface fuels and encouraged forest growth. Modern forests now have higher tree density and fuel loads, increasing the severity of wildfires. As burn severity area and high severity patch size increases, predicting future wildfire burn severity maps becomes more necessary for policy-makers to support land use management relating to habitat loss, infrastructure, and fuel treatment scenarios. In this study, the research team developed two empirical models to test different vegetation regimes and their ability to use coarse vegetation to accurately model burn severity. 

The study was able to produce efficient and realistic burn severity maps comparable to historically observed maps, believing they can use coarse vegetation to capture more specificity in spatial patterns. The methods tested here will be incorporated into visual depictions of projected wildfire risk scenarios for California’s Fifth State Climate Assessment.

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For more information, contact Jessica Garrison.




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Americans’ health, security and economic wellbeing are tied to climate and weather. Every day, we see communities grappling with environmental challenges due to unusual or extreme events related to climate and weather.