Impacts and Responses
New Horizons in Regional Science series
Edited by Matthias Ruth, Kieran Donaghy and Paul Kirshen
Chapter 3: Modeling Interactions Among Wildland Fire, Climate and Society in the Context of Climatic Variability and Change in the US Southwest
3 Modeling Interactions Among Wildland Fire, Climate and Society in the Context of Climatic Variability and Change in the Southwest US B. Morehouse, G. Christopherson, M. Crimmins, B. Orr, J. Overpeck, T. Swetnam and S. Yool INTRODUCTION Between 1985 and 2004 wildland fires burned more than 75 million acres across the United States (NIFC 2004a, 2004b). Moreover, in 2002 the direct cost of fighting fires reached a high of more than $1.6 billion (NIFC 2004b). Damage and destruction of homes, infrastructure and ecosystems have likewise been skyrocketing. Indeed, concern about wildland fire has reached the highest levels of government (White House 2002; US Congress 2003) and accounts of dramatic fire events have become a staple of national, regional and local news media. The raging fires that occurred in southern California in early fall 2003, for example, captured sustained attention from reporters and viewers alike. In part, contemporary fire problems stem from almost 100 years of active and aggressive fire suppression. Rapid exurban development of areas near and within the region’s forests has exacerbated these problems. The concern expressed at all levels of government, from local to federal, about both the impacts and costs of these fires is providing unprecedented opportunities to combine scientific expertise with on-the-ground knowledge held by fire fighters, forest managers and local communities to improve management of fire-adapted landscapes. At the same time that fire risk is increasing, our knowledge about fire and its role in wildland ecosystems is also increasing – as is our understanding of the...
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