We investigate relationships between climate and wildfire activity between 1929 and 2004 in Pacific coast forests of the United States. Self-Organizing Mapping (SOM) of annual area burned in National Forests (NF) in California, Oregon, and Washington identifies three contiguous NF groups and a fourth group of NF traversed by major highways. Large fire years in all groups are dry compared to small fire years. A sub-hemispheric circulation pattern of a strong trough over the North Pacific and a ridge over the West Coast is characteristic of large fire years in all groups. This pattern resembles the Pacific North American (PNA) teleconnection and positive phase of the Pacific Decadal Oscillation (PDO). A reverse PNA and negative PDO phase characterizes small fire years. Despite the effect of fire suppression management between 1929 and 2004, forest area burned is linked to climatic variations related to large-scale atmospheric circulation patterns.
All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes
- General Earth and Planetary Sciences