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Different approaches to model future burnt area in the Iberian Peninsula

Pedro M. Sousa, Ricardo M. Trigoa, Mário G. Pereira, Joaquín Bedia, Jose M. Gutiérrez
Agricultural and Forest Meteorology 202 11–25. doi: http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.agrformet.2014.11.018

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Abstract

tIn this work we developed projections for future fire regimes in the Iberian Peninsula using outputs fromRegional Climate Model (RCM) from the ENSEMBLES project. Wildfires are the cause of major ecologicaland economic impacts in this region, and the increasing evidence of climate change consequences inthis region raises concerns on the future impacts of fires in the Iberian forests ecosystems. Our resultsconfirm that the inter-annual variability of total burnt area is mainly controlled by meteorological condi-tions, in spite of the current efforts for fire control and suppression. We also show that this meteorologydominance over fire activity is not only true during the fire season itself, but also that certain specific mete-orological backgrounds (such as prolonged droughts) may enhance the risk for severe wildfire episodes insome areas. Based on a previous classification of the Iberian Peninsula into four distinct pyro-regions, wedeveloped statistical models which reproduce about two thirds of the inter-annual variability of the burntarea, using meteorological variables as predictors (calibrated with data from the ERA-Interim reanaly-sis). Specific models were developed for each sub-domain, testing their robustness for extrapolationunder climate-change conditions. Using an ensemble of state-of-the-art RCM future climate scenarios,we present future BA projections considering two alternative techniques of statistical correction of modeldata often used in climate change impact studies: (1) unbiasing method; (2) delta change method. Ourresults clearly project large increases in mean burnt areas for all the considered pyro-regions, despitesome fluctuations regarding each considered technique. By 2075, mean burnt areas could be about twoto three times larger than in the present, taking into account current climate projections for the nextcentury, and non-significant changes in other external factors, such as human activity, fire suppressionor land use.