Emerging anthropogenic influences on the southcentral alaska temperature and precipitation extremes and related fires in 2019

Uma S. Bhatt, Rick T. Lader, John E. Walsh, Peter A. Bieniek, Richard Thoman, Matthew Berman, Cecilia Borries-Strigle, Kristi Bulock, Jonathan Chriest, Micah Hahn, Amy S. Hendricks, Randi Jandt, Joseph Little, Daniel McEvoy, Chris Moore, T. Scott Rupp, Jennifer Schmidt, Eric Stevens, Heidi Strader, Christine WaiglJames White, Alison York, Robert Ziel

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

5 Scopus citations

Abstract

The late-season extreme fire activity in Southcentral Alaska during 2019 was highly unusual and consequential. Firefighting operations had to be extended by a month in 2019 due to the extreme conditions of hot summer temperature and prolonged drought. The ongoing fires created poor air quality in the region containing most of Alaska’s population, leading to substantial impacts to public health. Suppression costs totaled over $70 million for Southcentral Alaska. This study’s main goals are to place the 2019 season into historical context, provide an attribution analysis, and assess future changes in wildfire risk in the region. The primary tools are meteorological observations and climate model simulations from the NCAR CESM Large Ensemble (LENS). The 2019 fire season in Southcentral Alaska included the hottest and driest June–August season over the 1979–2019 period. The LENS simulation analysis suggests that the anthropogenic signal of increased fire risk had not yet emerged in 2019 because of the CESM’s internal variability, but that the anthropogenic signal will emerge by the 2040–2080 period. The effect of warming temperatures dominates the effect of enhanced precipitation in the trend towards increased fire risk.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number82
Pages (from-to)1-15
Number of pages15
JournalLand
Volume10
Issue number1
DOIs
StatePublished - Jan 2021
Externally publishedYes

Keywords

  • Boreal forest
  • Buildup Index
  • Climate change
  • Drought
  • LENS
  • PM2.5
  • Precipitation
  • RCP 8.5
  • SPEI
  • Temperature
  • Wildland fire

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Global and Planetary Change
  • Ecology
  • Nature and Landscape Conservation

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