Improving predictions of fire impacts after mega drought: Lessons for carbon storage, defending the WUI, and improving resilience and recovery following the 2020 Creek Fire
Principal Investigator: Van R. Kane, Ph.D.
Project Partners: Co-I Dr. C. Alina Cansler, Co-I Dr. Monika Moskal, co-I Liz (Chattin) van Wagtendonk, University of Washington, co-PI Dr. Thomas H. Painter, Airborne Snow Observatories, Inc., co-PI Dr. Marc Meyer, co-I Dr. Malcolm North, co-I Dr. Leland Tarnay, co-I Amarina Wuenschel, USDA Forest Service, co-I Dr. Eric Rowell, Desert Research Institute
Institution: University of Washington
Project Type: General Research
Grant Award # 8GG20805
Amount awarded: $498,535
Award Date: March, 2021
The 2020 Creek Fire burned through fuel-laden forests following the 2012-2016 mega drought. It burned 36% of the upper San Joaquin watershed, destroying 853 and damaging 64 human structures, critical habitat, and the basin’s snowpack storage and flood attenuation. At least 44% of the vegetation burned at high severity creating large stand replacing patches 1-2 orders of magnitude larger than the natural range of variation. A warming, drying climate increases the risk of future mega droughts, mass forest mortality, and future mass fires across an increasing area of California. Forest managers will struggle to determine the risks posed by future fires in forests with extraordinary fuel loads and their impacts on human communities and the resilience and persistence of forests.
An unprecedented combination of pre- and post-fire high resolution airborne lidar, hyperspectral and aerial imaging, and field data, allows us to use the Creek Fire as an example of a mass fire to learn about the drivers of burn severity patterns, threats to human structures, and the consequences for restoration, carbon storage, and the implications for forest management. The project also will provide federal, state, and local agencies and managers with timely data products mapping post-Creek Fire forest conditions using post-fire airborne lidar and other remote sensing to support their post-fire recovery efforts and landscape management. Our study will provide the basis for management guidelines to mitigate the impacts of future fires in mass mortality landscapes and help managers prepare their responses when they do occur.
The fire’s size and longevity, 153,738 ha and 111 days, allows us to examine our questions across state and federal responsibility areas, within human communities, across a range of pre-fire management regimes and treatments, a multitude of biophysical conditions, and a range of fire weather including extreme weather.
Our interdisciplinary team drawn from several institutions are using multiple high resolution data sets to study this fire. We will use our findings to lead the effort to prepare suggested management guidelines from the analysis to supply managers with enhanced science guidelines pertaining to effective pre- and post-fire management treatments and optimal fuel treatment placement to inform immediate post-fire management and inform long-term landscape risk management.
No publications at this time.