Large-scale patterns of forest fire occurrence in the conterminous United States, Alaska, and Hawaii, 2016.

Published online
02 Jan 2019
Content type
Bulletin article

Potter, K. M.

Publication language
USA & Alaska & Hawaii


This paper presents analyses of fire occurrence data, collected nationally each day by satellite, that map and quantify where fire occurrences were concentrated spatially across the conterminous USA, Alaska, and Hawaii in 2016. It also compares 2016 fire occurrences, within a geographic context, to all the recent years for which such data are available. Quantifying and monitoring such large-scale patterns of fire occurrence across the USA can help improve the understanding of the ecological and economic impacts of fire as well as the appropriate management and prescribed use of fire. Specifically, large-scale assessments of fire occurrence can help identify areas where specific management activities may be needed, or where research into the ecological and socioeconomic impacts of fires may be required. The analyses showed that in Alaska, meanwhile, the MODIS database captured 2196 forest fire occurrences in 2016, approximately 90% less than the preceding year (21 466) and approximately 82% less than the previous 15-year annual mean of 11 925. Meanwhile, Hawaii had 1210 fire occurrences in 2016, an increase of approximately 34% over the previous year (904) and 224% higher than the average 373 fire occurrences over the previous 15 years. It is suggested that the results of these geographic analyses are intended to offer insights into where fire occurrences have been concentrated spatially in a given year and compared to previous years, but are not intended to quantify the severity of a given fire season.

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