Skip to content

 Wildfire Modeling, Fire Forecasting and Climate Change Assessment
Personal tools
You are here: Home Fire Forecast
Document Actions

Fire Forecast

We predict the expected number of fires for upcoming seasons. The main goal of this project is to estimate the probability of large fires (>200 ha) for one to six months ahead. We produce forecasted probability estimates of large fire (>200 ha) occurrence, odds ratios (normalized by historic risk).  We also estimate expected area burned in large fires and suppression costs, but those values are not yet shown in the figures posted here.


The model utilizes the history of climate variables through the month preceding the date each forecast is made. The first forecast is made at the start of April each year, using data observed through March as explanatory variables, with forecasts made at that time for each month from April to September.  At the start of each subsequent month, forecasts for the remaining months are updated using the climate observations from the previous month. So, the probability estimates are evaluated for one to six months ahead using history of climate data up to the present. Forecasts for the later part of the fire season can thus change significantly over the season, as they incorporate more recently observed climate.  All of the forecast maps are maintained online to allow comparisons as the season progresses.  

Retrospective forecasts back to 1980 are made available here as well to allow assessment of the models' forecast skill. 



1980    1981    1982    1983    1984    1985    1986    1987    1988    1989    1990    1991    1992    1993    1994    1995    1996    1997    1998    1999    2000    2001    2002    2003    2004    2005    2006    2007    2008    2009    2010


These reliability plots below show the goodness of-fit of the estimated models by plotting observed fractions of (≥200 ha fires) responses against predicted probabilities for 4 different models:

Reliability Plot
Reliability Plot

Figure a: Forecasts based on historic model that includes only month of year and site characteristics.

Figure b: Forecasts done end of March using lagged climate data up to end of March.

Figure c: Forecasts done end of April with lagged climate data up to end of april.

Figure c: Forecasts done end of May with lagged climate data up to end of May. 

- Dashed lines indicate 95% confidence intervals.


Preisler, H.K., A.L. Westerling, K. M. Gebert, F. Munoz-Arriola: "Spatially Explicit Forecasts of Large Wildland Fire Probability and Suppression Costs for California," International Journal of Wildland Firesubmitted


Anthony L. Westerling, Assistant Professor ( || Sudhir Raj Shrestha, Programmer Analyst (

Copyright 2009 Climate Applications Lab. All Rights Reserved.