Projection of future wildfire emissions in western USA under climate change: contributions from changes in wildfire, fuel loading and fuel moisture
Numerous devastating air pollution events from wildfire smoke occurred in this century in the western USA, leading to severe environmental consequences. This study projects future fire emissions in this region under climate change with a focus on comparing the relative contributions from future changes in burned area, fuel loading and fuel moisture. The three properties were projected using an empirical fire model, a dynamical global vegetation model and meteorological conditions respectively. The regional climate change scenarios for the western USA were obtained by dynamical downscaling of global climate projections. The results show overall increasing wildfires and fuel loading and decreasing fuel moisture. As a result, fire emissions are projected to increase by ~50% from 2001-2010 to 2050-2059. The changes in wildfires and fuel loading contribute nearly 75% and 25% of the total fire emission increase, respectively, but the contribution from fuel moisture change is minimal. The findings suggest that the air pollution events caused by wildfire smoke could become much more serious in the western USA by the middle of this century, and that it would be essential to take the future changes in fuel conditions into account to improve the accuracy of fire emission projections.