Quantifying Increased Fire Risk in California in Response to Different Levels of Warming and Drying

Document Type


Publication Date



Warming temperatures and severe droughts have contributed to increasing fire activity in California. Decadal average summer temperature in California has increased by 0.8 °C during 1984–2014, while the decadal total size of large fires has expanded by a factor of 2.5. This study proposes a multivariate probabilistic approach for quantifying changes to fire risk given different climatic conditions. Our results indicate that the risk of large fires in California increases substantially in response to unit degree changes in summer temperature. The probability of annual mean fire size exceeding its long-term average increases by 30% when summer temperature anomaly increases by 1 °C (from −0.5 °C to + 0.5 °C). Furthermore, the probability of annual average fire size exceeding its long-term average doubles when the annual precipitation decreases from the 75th (wet) to the 25th (dry) percentile. The proposed model can help manage fire-prone regions where fire activity is expected to intensify under projected global warming.