The Effect of Higher Temperatures on Wildfire Size: Evidence from Wildfires on U.S. Forest Service Lands in the Northern Rockies

Posted: 6 Jan 2018

Date Written: May 18, 2017

Abstract

This paper investigates the effect that rising temperatures will have on wildfire size in the United States. Using data for 586 wildfires that occurred on US Forest Service land in the Northern Rockies between 1995 and 2012, I find that a 1% increase in the maximum temperature observed during the month a wildfire occurs is associated with a 2.34% increase in wildfire size, holding all other factors constant. Given that current climate models predict temperatures to rise by 32% in this region by the end of the century, this estimate suggests that average wildfire size could increase by 75%. I estimate that perfectly offsetting this increase in wildfire size would require the US Forest Service to increase per-fire suppression expenditures by 202%. This would translate into a $5 million increase in suppression expenditures for the average wildfire in my dataset.

Keywords: Adaptation, Climate Change, Global Warming, Natural Disasters, Wildfires

JEL Classification: Q23, Q54, Q58

Suggested Citation

Wood, Dallas, The Effect of Higher Temperatures on Wildfire Size: Evidence from Wildfires on U.S. Forest Service Lands in the Northern Rockies (May 18, 2017). Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=3094735 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.3094735

Dallas Wood (Contact Author)

RTI International ( email )

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