Impacts of large-scale atmospheric-ocean variability on Alaskan fire season severity

Paul A. Duffy, John E. Walsh, Jonathan M. Graham, Daniel H. Mann, T. Scott Rupp

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

141 Scopus citations


Fire is the keystone disturbance in the Alaskan boreal forest and is highly influenced by summer weather patterns. Records from the last 53 years reveal high variability in the annual area burned in Alaska and corresponding high variability in weather occurring at multiple spatial and temporal scales. Here we use multiple linear regression (MLR) to systematically explore the relationships between weather variables and the annual area burned in Alaska. Variation in the seasonality of the atmospheric circulation-fire linkage is addressed through an evaluation of both the East Pacific teleconnection field and a Pacific Decadal Oscillation index keyed to an annual fire index. In the MLR, seven explanatory variables and an interaction term collectively explain 79% of the variability in the natural logarithm of the number of hectares burned annually by lightning-caused fires in Alaska from 1950 to 2003. Average June temperature alone explains one-third of the variability in the logarithm of annual area burned. The results of this work suggest that the Pacific Decadal Oscillation and the East Pacific teleconnection indices can be useful in determining a priori an estimate of the number of hectares that will burn in an upcoming season. This information also provides insight into the link between ocean-atmosphere interactions and the fire disturbance regime in Alaska.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1317-1330
Number of pages14
JournalEcological Applications
Issue number4
StatePublished - Aug 2005


  • Alaska boreal forest
  • East Pacific teleconnection
  • Ecological disturbance regimes
  • Fire regimes
  • Multiple linear regression
  • Pacific Decadal Oscillation
  • Teleconnections


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