Widespread fire years in the US-Mexico Sky Islands are contingent on both winter and monsoon precipitation

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Abstract

The climate of the south-western United States and northern Mexico borderlands is marked by a bimodal precipitation regime with the majority of moisture arriving during the cool season via Pacific frontal storm systems, and intense convective storms during the North American Monsoon (NAM). The fire season occurs primarily during the arid foresummer in May and June, before the development of the NAM. Most tree-ring studies of fire climatology in the region have evaluated only the role of winter precipitation. We used tree-ring-width-based reconstructions of both winter and monsoon precipitation, coupled with fire scar reconstructions of fire history from mountain ranges in the US and Mexico, to quantify the historical role and interactions of both seasons of precipitation in modulating widespread fire years. Winter precipitation was the primary driver of widespread fire years in the region, but years with drought in both seasons had the highest fire frequency and most widespread fires. These relationships define a unique monsoon fire regime, in which the timing and amount of monsoon precipitation are important factors in limiting the length of fire season and regulating widespread fire years.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1072-1087
Number of pages16
JournalInternational Journal of Wildland Fire
Volume29
Issue number12
DOIs
StatePublished - Dec 2020

Keywords

  • North American Monsoon
  • climate regulation
  • monsoon fire regime
  • summer precipitation index
  • synchrony
  • winter precipitation index

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Forestry
  • Ecology

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