Climate & Fire & Adaptation

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Climate-focused strategies and opportunities for all-lands practitioners

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In the year-plus since President Biden issued Executive Order 14008: Tackling the Climate Crisis at Home and Abroad, USDA agencies have put a central focus on promoting and expanding the use of climate-smart agriculture and forestry practices. This session will dig into how conservation and land management agencies – namely the Forest Service and NRCS – are operationalizing the Administration’s climate priorities through new and existing programs, initiatives, and funding sources. We’ll also hear from land management practitioners about how they are incorporating climate considerations into all-lands work at the local scale.

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Climate change increases risk of extreme rainfall following wildfire in the western US

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Post-wildfire extreme rainfall events can have destructive impacts in the western United States. Using two climate model large ensembles, we assess the future risk of extreme fire weather events being followed by extreme rainfall in this region. By mid-21st century, in a high warming scenario (RCP8.5), we report large increases in the number of extreme fire weather events followed within 1 year by at least one extreme rainfall event. By 2100, the frequency of these compound events increases by 100% in California and 700% in the Pacific Northwest in the Community Earth System Model v1 Large Ensemble. We further project that more than 90% of extreme fire weather events in California, Colorado, and the Pacific Northwest will be followed by at least three spatially co-located extreme rainfall events within five years. Our results point to a future with substantially increased post-fire hydrologic risks across much of the western United States.

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Warming weakens the night-time barrier to global fire

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This study shows that night-time fre intensity has increased, which is linked to hotter and drier nights. Our findings are based on global satellite observations of daytime and night-time fire detections and corresponding hourly climate data, from which we determine landcover-specific thresholds of VPD (VPDt), below which fire detections are very rare (less than 95 per cent modelled chance). Globally, daily minimum VPD increased by 25 per cent from 1979 to 2020. Across burnable lands, the annual number of flammable night-time hours—when VPD exceeds VPDt—increased by 110 hours, allowing five additional nights when flammability never ceases. Across nearly one-fifth of burnable lands, flammable nights increased by at least one week across this period. Globally, night fires have become 7.2 per cent more intense from 2003 to 2020, measured via a satellite record.

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Climate change on the range: Monitoring and adaptation for sustainability

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In this document, authors used the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) reports over the past decade, as well as studies from other experts in the field, to summarize projected changes to U.S. rangelands. Since U.S. rangelands are so diverse, authors divided the country into five eco-regions, organized into three separate sections: Southwest North America (including the desert Southwest and Great Basin); the Great Plains; and the Gulf Coast (including Florida coastal rangelands and the Texas coastal prairies).

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Adapting western North American forests to climate change and wildfires: 10 common questions

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This paper review science-based adaptation strategies for western North American (wNA) forests that include restoring active fire regimes and fostering resilient structure and composition of forested landscapes. As part of the review, we address common questions associated with climate adaptation and realignment treatments that run counter to a broad consensus in the literature. These include the following: (1) Are the effects of fire exclusion overstated? If so, are treatments unwarranted and even counterproductive? (2) Is forest thinning alone sufficient to mitigate wildfire hazard? (3) Can forest thinning and prescribed burning solve the problem? (4) Should active forest management, including forest thinning, be concentrated in the wildland urban interface (WUI)? (5) Can wildfires on their own do the work of fuel treatments? (6) Is the primary objective of fuel reduction treatments to assist in future firefighting response and containment? (7) Do fuel treatments work under extreme fire weather? (8) Is the scale of the problem too great? Can we ever catch up? (9) Will planting more trees mitigate climate change in wNA forests? And (10) is post-fire management needed or even ecologically justified?

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Science and management of wildfire, fish, and water resources in the western US

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Wildfire has increased 20-fold in the last 30 years in the Western U.S., partly due to climate change and partly due to forest and fire management practices. At the same time, many water resources are drying up. And fish populations throughout the western US are struggling due to water diversions, instream barriers, invasive species, and dwindling flows. This talk will integrate across these three big, converging problems, reframing the role of wildfire in western ecosystems, discussing how wildfire, fish, and water resource problems are interrelated, and proposing solutions that match the scale of the problem.
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Envisioning Futures with Wildfire Webinar Series

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11-week lecture series Lookout: Envisioning Futures with Wildfire, we’ll scan the horizon for the ideas and stories that can guide us through this critical and disorienting time. We’ve invited speakers who offer perspectives from across the arts, humanities, and environmental sciences to think about questions like: What can we learn about transformation from fire’s destructive and creative force? How should we live differently, both with each other and on the planet, in this era of wildfires? How can we honor fire as an ancient, rejuvenating element while also honoring all that has been lost to wildfire?

This series is hosted by the Spring Creek Project and the Environmental Arts and Humanities Initiative at Oregon State University and co-sponsored by OSU’s Center for the Humanities, OSU’s Sustainability Office, OSU’s Arts and Education Complex, and Terrain.org. Additional co-sponsors for individual talks are noted in the schedule below.

The talks in the series will be broadcast live on Zoom Tuesdays at 6 p.m. PST / 8 p.m. CST / 9 p.m. EST from January 4 to March 15. Free and open to everyone.

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Developing divergent, plausible, and relevant climate futures for near- and long-term resource planning

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It seems the effects of climate change were all too clear in 2021. Yet, we know more change is expected. When trying to adapt to a changing climate, with all the inherent uncertainties about how the future may play out, resource managers often turn to scenario planning as a tool. Managers use scenario planning to explore plausible ways the climate may change, allowing them to work with climate change uncertainty rather than being paralyzed by it. Once identified, scenarios of the future are used to develop proactive measures to prepare for and adapt to scenarios of change.

A key part of scenario planning is generating a list of potential future climates we may deal with. These ‘climate futures’ serve as the foundation of each scenario explored in the planning process. For example, managers consider how they would respond to a warm, wet versus a hot, dry future. This webinar will describe and compare three approaches to generate the climate futures that feed into the scenario planning process. In doing so, this work identifies an approach to developing climate futures that captures a broad range of climate conditions (a key ingredient to developing scenarios) across both near and long-term planning horizons.

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2022 Southwestern Tribal Climate Change Summit

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In partnership with the La Jolla Band of Luiseño Indians, the Pala Band of Mission Indians, and the Institute for Tribal Environmental Professionals, the Climate Science Alliance co-hosted the 2022 Southwestern Tribal Climate Change Summit (SWTCCS) May 16-18, 2022. The 2022 theme: “Exploring the Fire Within Us”

The 2022 SWTCCS built upon key takeaways from the 2019 SWTCCS held in Idyllwild, CA. The 2022 summit brought together tribal leaders, professionals, and community members from across the Southwest to explore the kinship with fire and its role in community, conservation, and climate change adaptation while putting our own unique twist with hands-on activities, networking, and professional training opportunities.

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In-depth treatment of the Resist-Accept-Direct Framework

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A Special Section in the journal BioScience provides an in-depth exposition of the Resist-Accept-Direct framework, a new approach to guide natural resource decision making. Articles in the Special Section explore the practical application of the framework, compatibility of existing tools, social barriers and opportunities, and future science needs.

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