Eskandari, S; Miesel, JR; Pourghasemi, HR (2020). The temporal and spatial relationships between climatic parameters and fire occurrence in northeastern Iran. ECOLOGICAL INDICATORS, 118, 106720.

Fire is a natural disturbance in a wide range of ecosystem types around the world. Although the majority of fires are caused by anthropogenic ignitions, climate and weather are known to influence the risk of fire spread, regardless of ignition source. However, the specific relationships among these factors remain under-studied for many regions of the world. The objective of this study was to investigate the effect of climatic variables on forest and rangeland fire regimes in the Golestan Province of Iran in three recent decades. Specifically, we sought to determine: (a) the quantitative temporal relationships between climatic variables and fire occurrence; and (b) the spatial relationships between climatic variables and fire occurrence. To assess quantitative temporal relationships, we used correlation and regression analyses to identify and describe statistically significant relationships between climatic data (mean annual temperature, mean annual precipitation, mean annual relative humidity, and mean annual wind velocity) and fire data (number of fire and area burned), using climatic data from the Golestan Meteorological Administration and fire statistics from the Golestan Natural Resources Administration (GNRA). To determine the spatial relationships between climatic variables and fire occurrence, we combined geospatial data on climatic variables (mean annual temperature, mean annual rainfall, wind effect, and topographic wetness index (TWI)) obtained from ASTER-GDEM and active fires derived from MODIS fire products in a random forest (RF) model approach to construct a map of fire susceptibility at 30 m spatial resolution. Our results showed that there was a significant temporal relationship between the number of fires and mean annual temperature, mean annual relative humidity, and mean annual wind velocity. There were also significant temporal relationships between area burned and mean annual relative humidity and mean annual wind velocity. Based on the RF model, the mean annual rainfall had the highest relative importance in fire spatial occurrence. Validation of the fire susceptibility map using area under the curve (AUC) indicated that the RF model created an accurate fire susceptibility map (AUC: 0.823), suggesting that the map can be used as a spatio-temporal climatic alarm system for fire occurrence in the different climatic conditions of the Golestan Province. The results from this study will be important for helping perform climate-change analyses for investigating future temporal and spatial patterns of wildfire in the Golestan Province.