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Trend analysis of fire season length and extreme fire weather in North America between 1979 and 2015
- Jain, Piyush, Wang, Xianli, Flannigan, Mike D.
- The International journal of wildland fire 2017 v.26 no.12 pp. 1009-1020
- climatology, data collection, fire season, fire spread, fire weather, time series analysis, Canada, Southwestern United States
- We have constructed a fire weather climatology over North America from 1979 to 2015 using the North American Regional Reanalysis dataset and the Canadian Fire Weather Index (FWI) System. We tested for the presence of trends in potential fire season length, based on a meteorological definition, and extreme fire weather using the non-parametric Theil–Sen slope estimator and Mann–Kendall test. Applying field significance testing (i.e. joint significance of multiple tests) allowed the identification of the locations of significant trends, taking into account spatial correlations. Fire season length was found to be increasing over large areas of North America, especially in eastern Canada and the south-western US, which is consistent with a later fire season end and an earlier fire season start. Both positive and negative trends in potential fire spread days and the 99th percentile of FWI occurred in Canada and the contiguous United States, although the trends of largest magnitude and statistical significance were mostly positive. In contrast, the proportion of trends with significant decreases in these variables were much lower, indicating an overall increase in extreme fire weather. The smaller proportion of significant positive trends found over Canada reflects the truncation of the time series, necessary because assimilation of precipitation observations over Canada ceased in the reanalysis post-2002.