Wildfire is a key component of the climate system and plays an important role in regulating regional climate variability. The overarching goal of this project is to elucidate the role of wildfire in decadal climate variation and prediction. On the basis of wildfire observations in the past decade, the regions that the variability of fire is large will be selected for targeted modeling analysis. The working hypotheses are that the observed fire variability is regulated by regional climate variation and that the climate feedbacks from fires increase regional climate variability. Consequently, the simulation of wildfires and their feedbacks is essential for predicting regional climate variability on a decadal scale. These hypotheses will be thoroughly tested and the mechanistic process will be carefully analyzed using an extensive suite of observations and selected ensembles of climate model simulations. In this project, the modeling capability of wildfires and their climate forcing will be developed by building a new Region-specific Fire Model with Ecosystem Feedbacks (RFMEF). Regional climate forcing by wildfires and fire feedbacks to regional climate variability will be quantified. Lastly fully interactive regional fire-climate variability feedbacks will be investigated to understand the projections of decadal regional climate variability.

Understanding the interannual and decadal-scale regional climate variability is critical for designing and testing (regional) adaptation and mitigation strategies. Many atmospheric, oceanic, and ecosystem factors contribute to regional climate variability and most of these factors are already captured in the earth system models. One such factor not yet well represented is wildfire. The two-way interactions between regional climate variability and wildfire not only are important in improving the decadal-scale climate model simulation and prediction but also are necessary when applying the climate model to examine adaptation strategies targeted at the vulnerability induced by enhanced climate variation (due in part to these interactions) and to investigate the effectiveness of mitigation strategies of forest management practices. The open-source RFMEF fire model that will be developed for the Community Earth System Model (CESM) system and the climate modeling data that will be generated in the project will enable policy experts to conduct more in-depth analysis of climate policies in regions strongly affected by wildfire and allow other scientists to conduct climate simulations and prediction that include the fire-ecosystem-climate interactions and that are more suitable for their research and assessment needs.

National Science Foundation (NSF)
Division of Atmospheric and Geospace Sciences (AGS)
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Eric DeWeaver
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Georgia Tech Research Corporation
United States
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