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Seminar Abstract

Jeremy Littell - Tuesday, May 20


Climate Variability and Fire in the Mountain West: Pacific Teleconnections, Drought, and Severe Fire Years since 1600

Fire regime is a term used by ecologists to describe the characteristic frequency, severity, and size of fire events in a particular ecosystem. The suite of drivers on fire events are complex, resulting in low explanatory power for any single driving variable. Since twentieth-century relationships are confounded by the possibility that fire exclusion is/was effective, past climate influences on fire provide a better context for exploring the physical processes linking climate and fire. Aside from landmark studies relating Southwestern fire regimes to the Southern Oscillation, relatively little research has sought to establish the spatiotemporal context of the impacts of Pacific basin oscillations (Pacific Decadal Oscillation, Southern Oscillation) on fire regimes in the west.
Establishing such relationships increases skill in forecasting fire seasons, but also provides a mechanistic context for constructing hypotheses for the effects of climate change on fire regime. By linking tree-ring based fire histories with independent reconstructions of drought, the PDO, and the SO, the magnitude, correlations, and stationarity of these drivers on fire regime can be evaluated. In this talk, I focus on research linking the Pacific Decadal Oscillation to fire events in Greater Yellowstone between 1600 and 1900. I will also describe ongoing larger scale work relating the PDO and SO to past fire regimes in the Pacific Northwest, Northern Rockies, California and the Southwest

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