Assessing the role of drought events on wildfires in the Iberian Peninsula

Ana Russo, Célia M. Gouveia, Patrícia Páscoa, Carlos C. Da Camara, Pedro M. Sousa, Ricardo M. Trigo
Agricultural and Forest Meteorology, DOI:

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Southern European countries are particularly affected by summer wildfires and drought events. Theoccurrence of extreme meteorological conditions during preceding and contemporaneous months ampli-fies the risk of summer wildfires.The main scope of this study was to investigate the impact of drought periods on burned areas in theIberian Peninsula. This will be achieved through the comparison of time series of two widely used multi-scalar drought indices (SPI and SPEI) calculated for each province and then associated with the time seriesof the standardized logarithm of normalized burned areas during the fire summer season. The SPI andSPEI were both calculated for the time scales spanning between 2 to 12 months and for each month fromJanuary to August, between 1980 and 2005. Based on the regression analysis between drought indicatorsand burned areas, the months that present lowest errors were identified for each province. From theobtained results two main conclusions were reached: (i) the association between drought and fires is alocal scale process and should be analyzed at the province or sub-province level rather than at the countryor continental level; (ii) the relation between wildfires and drought is better explained by the influenceof the spring precipitation on the central sector and by the influence of temperature and precipitationduring summer on most of the Portuguese provinces.