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Wildfire danger is often ascribed to increased temperature, decreased humidity, drier fuels, or higher wind speed. However, the concurrence of drivers—defined as climate, meteorological and biophysical factors that enable fire growth—is rarely tested for commonly used fire danger indices or climate change studies. Treating causal factors as independent additive influences can lead to inaccurate inferences about shifting hazards if the factors interact as a series of switches that collectively modulate fire growth. As evidence, we show that in Southern California very large fires and 'megafires' are more strongly associated with multiple drivers exceeding moderate thresholds concurrently, rather than direct relationships with extreme magnitudes of individual drivers or additive combinations of those drivers. Days with concurrent fire drivers exceeding thresholds have increased more rapidly over the past four decades than individual drivers, leading to a tripling of annual 'megafire critical danger days'. Assessments of changing wildfire risks should explicitly address concurrence of fire drivers to provide a more precise assessment of this hazard in the face of a changing climate.

Creative Commons License

Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.