A Study of California Drought and Wildland Fires Using Satellite Remote Sensing Measurements


  • Xianjun Hao




With climate change increasing global temperatures, the threat of wildland fires has become more prevalent because of the dry and hot weather conditions. Knowledge of how and when wildland fires occur can help mitigate their disastrous effects. This project aims to investigate if precipitation trends in California can help scientists understand the patterns of these fires in that state. In this study, we analyzed wildland fire events in California from 2002 to 2019 and satellite remote sensing measurements of monthly precipitation from the NASA Giovanni system. Monthly precipitation anomaly time series was generated to evaluate the dry conditions in California. Compared with records of wildland fires in California collected from the National Interagency Fire Center, precipitation anomalies during fire season show remarkable connections with annual burned areas. In California, the peak fire season is from August to December, so precipitation anomaly time series of these five months in each year was generated for quantitative assessment. Regression analysis shows a moderate negative correlation between monthly precipitation anomaly during peak fire season and the area burned by wildland fires. The correlation suggests a link between precipitation and the damage caused by wildland fires in California. Further investigation into this topic may develop a method for predicting the area of wildland fire damage based on precipitation forecasting from climate models, providing decision supports for government agencies to prepare accordingly.





College of Science: Department of Geography and Geoinformation Science