Articles | Volume 12, issue 3
Biogeosciences, 12, 887–903, 2015
Biogeosciences, 12, 887–903, 2015

Research article 13 Feb 2015

Research article | 13 Feb 2015

HESFIRE: a global fire model to explore the role of anthropogenic and weather drivers

Y. Le Page1, D. Morton2, B. Bond-Lamberty1, J. M. C. Pereira3, and G. Hurtt4 Y. Le Page et al.
  • 1Pacific Northwest National Laboratory, Joint Global Change Research Institute, University of Maryland, College Park, MD 20740, USA
  • 2NASA Goddard Space Flight Center, Greenbelt, MD 20771, USA
  • 3Centro de Estudos Florestais, Instituto Superior de Agronomia, Universidade de Lisboa, Tapada da Ajuda, 1349-017 Lisbon, Portugal
  • 4Department of Geographical Sciences, University of Maryland, College Park, MD 20740, USA

Abstract. Vegetation fires are a major driver of ecosystem dynamics and greenhouse gas emissions. Anticipating potential changes in fire activity and their impacts relies first on a realistic model of fire activity (e.g., fire incidence and interannual variability) and second on a model accounting for fire impacts (e.g., mortality and emissions). In this paper, we focus on our understanding of fire activity and describe a new fire model, HESFIRE (Human–Earth System FIRE), which integrates the influence of weather, vegetation characteristics, and human activities on fires in a stand-alone framework. It was developed with a particular emphasis on allowing fires to spread over consecutive days given their major contribution to burned areas in many ecosystems. A subset of the model parameters was calibrated through an optimization procedure using observation data to enhance our knowledge of regional drivers of fire activity and improve the performance of the model on a global scale. Modeled fire activity showed reasonable agreement with observations of burned area, fire seasonality, and interannual variability in many regions, including for spatial and temporal domains not included in the optimization procedure. Significant discrepancies are investigated, most notably regarding fires in boreal regions and in xeric ecosystems and also fire size distribution. The sensitivity of fire activity to model parameters is analyzed to explore the dominance of specific drivers across regions and ecosystems. The characteristics of HESFIRE and the outcome of its evaluation provide insights into the influence of anthropogenic activities and weather, and their interactions, on fire activity.

Final-revised paper