Improved use of geographic information to aid assessments of accelerating local wildfire hazard linked to global climate, demographic and vegetative trends

Authors: William Sommers*, George Mason University
Topics: Hazards, Risks, and Disasters, Global Change, Environmental Science
Keywords: wildland fire, hazards, climate change, risk, Wildland Urban Interface
Session Type: Paper
Day: 4/12/2018
Start / End Time: 3:20 PM / 5:00 PM
Room: Napoleon A3, Sheraton, 3rd Floor
Presentation File: No File Uploaded

Fires have burned vegetation for 420 million years of Earth history. Wildfires are local events, with regional scale characteristics, governed by global scale dynamics. Human ascendance in the Anthropocene has altered the combinational dynamics governing wildfire. Today, trends in global patterns of climate, demographics and vegetation are changing wildland fire hazard risk to local communities. Space based observations document how smoke from local fire events directly impacts hemispheric populations.

The geographical sciences are critically important to our understanding of, and responses to, accelerating risks from wildland fire. GIS technologies can enhance integrated display of complex physical, social and biological trends driving increased wildland fire hazards facing local communities separated in time and space. Community emergency responders must take on-the-ground action when faced with catastrophic fires, whether in California, Portugal, British Columbia, Siberia, Australia, or Chile. Timely delivery of integrated, geographically relevant, fire hazard information is essential for them to protect life, property and ecological values.

Wildland fire outbreaks are hopscotching our globe with accelerating virulence. Shifting geographic risk distributions are driven by seasonal weather and vegetative patterns linked to climate trends. Advanced GIS displays can integrate weather system developments with changing population exposures and vegetative stress patterns to spotlight regions with enhanced wildland fire risk. The goal is to employ geographical sciences integrative knowledge approaches to provide actionable information for use by emergency responders facing escalating local challenges caused by increasingly hazardous global wildfire patterns.

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