Skilful forecasting of global fire activity using seasonal climate predictions


Turco, M., Jerez, S., Doblas-Reyes, F.J. et al.
Skilful forecasting of global fire activity using seasonal climate predictions.
Nat Commun 9, 2718 (2018) doi:10.1038/s41467-018-05250-0


Societal exposure to large fires has been increasing in recent years. Estimating the expected fire activity a few months in advance would allow reducing environmental and socio-economic impacts through short-term adaptation and response to climate variability and change. However, seasonal prediction of climate-driven fires is still in its infancy. Here, we discuss a strategy for seasonally forecasting burned area anomalies linking seasonal climate predictions with parsimonious empirical climate–fire models using the standardized precipitation index as the climate predictor for burned area. Assuming near-perfect climate predictions, we obtained skilful predictions of fire activity over a substantial portion of the global burnable area (~60%). Using currently available operational seasonal climate predictions, the skill of fire seasonal forecasts remains high and significant in a large fraction of the burnable area (~40%). These findings reveal an untapped and useful burned area predictive ability using seasonal climate forecasts, which can play a crucial role in fire management strategies and minimise the impact of adverse climate conditions.