Simulating the effects of weather and climate on large wildfires in France
Large wildfires across parts of France can cause devastating damage which puts lives, infrastructure, and the natural ecosystem at risk. In the climate change context, it is essential to better understand how these large wildfires relate to weather and climate and how they might change in a warmer world. Such projections rely on the development of a robust modeling framework linking large wildfires to present-day atmospheric variability. Drawing from a MODIS product and a gridded meteorological dataset, we derived a suite of biophysical and fire danger indices and developed generalized linear models simulating the probability of large wildfires (>100 ha) at 8 km spatial and daily temporal resolutions across the entire country over the last two decades. The models were able to reproduce large-wildfire activity across a range of spatial and temporal scales. Different sensitivities to weather and climate were detected across different environmental regions. Long-term drought was found to be a significant predictor of large wildfires in flammability-limited systems such as the Alpine and southwestern regions. In the Mediterranean, large wildfires were found to be associated with both short-term fire weather conditions and longer-term soil moisture deficits, collectively facilitating the occurrence of large wildfires. Simulated probabilities on days with large wildfires were on average 2–3 times higher than normal with respect to the mean seasonal cycle, highlighting the key role of atmospheric variability in wildfire spread. The model has wide applications, including improving our understanding of the drivers of large wildfires over the historical period and providing a basis on which to estimate future changes to large wildfires from climate scenarios.