Crown fires associated with extreme fire severity are extremely difficult to control. We have assessed fire severity using differenced Normalized Burn Ratio (dNBR) from Landsat imagery in 15 historical wildfires of Pinus halepensis Mill. We have considered a wide range of innovative topographic, fuel and fire behavior variables with the purposes of (1) determining the variables that influence fire severity patterns among fires (considering the 15 wildfires together) and (2) ascertaining whether different variables affect extreme fire severity within the three fire types (topographic, convective and wind-driven fires). The among-fires analysis showed that fires in less arid climates and with steeper slopes had more extreme severity. In less arid conditions there was more crown fuel accumulation and closer forest structures, promoting high vertical and horizontal fuel continuity and extreme fire severity. The analyses carried out for each fire separately (within fires) showed more extreme fire severity in areas in northern aspects, with steeper slopes, with high crown biomass and in climates with more water availability. In northern aspects solar radiation was lower and fuels had less water limitation to growth which, combined with steeper slopes, produced more extreme severity. In topographic fires there was more extreme severity in northern aspects with steeper slopes and in areas with more water availability and high crown biomass; in convection-dominated fires there was also more extreme fire severity in northern aspects with high biomass; while in wind-driven fires there was only a slight interaction between biomass and water availability. This latter pattern could be related to the fact that wind-driven fires spread with high wind speed, which could have minimized the effect of other variables. In the future, and as a consequence of climate change, new zones with high crown biomass accumulated in non-common drought areas will be available to burn as extreme severity wildfires. © 2014 Lecina-Diaz et al.
Lecina-Diaz, J., Alvarez, A., & Retana, J. (2014). Extreme fire severity patterns in topographic, convective and wind-driven historical wildfires of mediterranean pine forests. PLoS ONE, 9(1), [e85127]. https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0085127