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Research Papers


Wildfire Projection-Related Research Papers

Members of the Climate Change and Fire Projections team are conducting a broad range of research related to vegetation and fire risk modeling that can be used to project the long-term impacts of wildfire in a changing climate. 

This page hosts research papers that have emerged from that work. Further information will be added here as more papers are published. 

Operational assessment tool for forest carbon dynamics for the United States: a new spatially explicit approach linking the LUCAS and CBM-CFS3 models

Benjamin M. Sleeter, Leonardo Frid, Bronwyn Rayfield, Colin Daniel, Zhiliang Zhu, and David C. Marvin.-022-00201-1

Carbon Balance and Management 17 (2022)


Background: Quantifying the carbon balance of forested ecosystems has been the subject of intense study involving the development of numerous methodological approaches. Forest inventories, processes-based biogeochemical models, and inversion methods have all been used to estimate the contribution of U.S. forests to the global terrestrial carbon sink. However, estimates have ranged widely, largely based on the approach used, and no single system is appropriate for operational carbon quantification and forecasting. We present estimates obtained using a new spatially explicit modeling framework utilizing a “gain–loss” approach, by linking the LUCAS model of land-use and land-cover change with the Carbon Budget Model of the Canadian Forest Sector (CBM-CFS3).

Results: We estimated forest ecosystems in the conterminous United States stored 52.0 Pg C across all pools. Between 2001 and 2020, carbon storage increased by 2.4 Pg C at an annualized rate of 126 Tg C year−1. Our results broadly agree with other studies using a variety of other methods to estimate the forest carbon sink. Climate variability and change was the primary driver of annual variability in the size of the net carbon sink, while land-use and land-cover change and disturbance were the primary drivers of the magnitude, reducing annual sink strength by 39%. Projections of carbon change under climate scenarios for the western U.S. find diverging estimates of carbon balance depending on the scenario. Under a moderate emissions scenario we estimated a 38% increase in the net sink of carbon, while under a high emissions scenario we estimated a reversal from a net sink to net source.

Conclusions: The new approach provides a fully coupled modeling framework capable of producing spatially explicit estimates of carbon stocks and fluxes under a range of historical and/or future socioeconomic, climate, and land management futures.

Wildfire burn severity and emissions inventory: an example implementation over California 

  • Xu, Q., A. L. Westerling, A. Notohamiprodjo, C. Wiedinmyer, J. J. Picotte, S. A. Parks, M. D. Hurteau, M. E. Marlier, C. A. Kolden, J. A. Sam, W. J. Baldwin, and C. Ade. 2022. Wildfire burn severity and emissions inventory: an example implementation over California. Environ. Res. Lett.
  • Sam. J. A., W. J. Baldwin, A. J. Westerling, H. K. Preiser, Q. Xu, M.D. Hureau, B. M. Sleeter, and S. B. Thapa. 2022.  Simulating burn severity maps at 30 meters in two forested regions in California. Environ. Res. Lett. 17:10.
  • Xu, Q., A. L. Westerling, A. and W. J. Baldwin. 2022. Spatial and temporal patterns of wildfire burn severity and biomass burning-induced emissions in California. Environ. Res. Lett.

Mass fire behavior created by extensive tree mortality and high tree density not predicted by operational fire behavior models in the southern Sierra Nevada.

Stephens, S. L., A. A. Bernal, B. M. Collins, M. A. Finney, C. Lautenberger, D. Saah. 2022.  Forest Ecol. And Manage. 518.

Climate Change Projection Team

We’re building a web-based tool that will allow users to engage with a range of scenarios based on future climate change, land use pathways, and land management interventions. Users will be able to simulate the size and intensity of potential wildfires through the end of the century.

These risk projections will support California’s Fifth Climate Change Assessment, helping government agencies and electric utilities make smart policy and planning decisions to protect California in the face of rising wildfire risk linked to climate change.