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The role of short-term weather conditions in temporal dynamics of fire regime features in mainland Spain

Jiménez-Ruano, Adrián, Rodrigues Mimbrero, Marcos, Jolly, W. Matt, de la Riva Fernández, Juan
Journal of environmental management 2019 v.241 pp. 575-586
basins, burning, coasts, fire hazard, fire prevention, fire regime, fire weather, forest fires, hinterland, seasonal variation, time series analysis, Spain
In this paper we investigate spatial-temporal associations of fire weather danger and fire regime features from 1979 to 2013. We analyze monthly time series of fire activity (number of fires and burned area) and fire weather danger rating indices (Fire Weather Index, Burning Index and Forest Fire Danger Index) at two spatial scales: (i) regionally, splitting the Spanish mainland into Northwest, Hinterland and Mediterranean regions; and (ii) locally, using the EMCWF grid. All analyses are based on decomposing time series to retrieve differential indicators of seasonal cycles, temporal evolution and anomalies. At regional scale we apply lagged cross-correlation analysis (4 lags or months before fire) to explore seasonal associations; and trend detection tests on the temporal evolution component. At the local scale, we calculate Pearson correlation coefficients between each individual index and the 18 possible fire-activity subsets according to fire size (all sizes, >1 ha and >100 ha) and source of ignition (natural, unintended and arson); this analysis is applied to both cycles, temporal and anomalies series.Results suggest that weather controls seasonal fire activity although it has limited influence on temporal evolution, i.e. trends. Stronger associations are detected in the number of fires in the Northwest and Hinterland regions compared to the Mediterranean, which has desynchronized from weather since 1994. Cross-correlation analysis revealed significant fire-weather associations in the Hinterland and Mediterranean, extending up to two months prior fire ignition. On the other hand, the association between temporal trends and weather is weaker, being negative along the Mediterranean and even significant in the case of burned area. The spatial disaggregation into grid cells reveals different spatial patterns across fire-activity subsets. Again, the connection at seasonal level is noticeable, especially in natural-caused fires. In turn, human-related wildfires are occasionally found independent from weather in some areas along the northern coast or the Ebro basin. In any case, this effect diminishes as the size of the fire increases. Our work suggests that for some regions of mainland Spain, these fire danger indices could provide useful information about upcoming fire activity up to two months ahead of time and this information could be used to better inform wildland fire prevention and suppression activities.