Regional Climate Change in the Southern United States: The Implications for Wildfire Occurrence

  • Warren E. Heilman
  • Brian E. Potter
  • John I. Zerbe
Part of the Ecological Studies book series (ECOLSTUD, volume 128)


Fires have always been an important factor in determining the composition of forests worldwide, but particularly in the southern United States. Wildfires were a common occurrence in American forests in the early twentieth century. Before 1930, wildfires typically accounted for the burning of eight to twenty million hectares (ha) in the United States each year. By the early 1940s, wildfires were still responsible for the annual burning of over eight million ha. Over 90% of the area burned during this time was on privately owned lands, primarily in the southern United States (Fedkiw, 1989). Between 1950 and 1980, the hectares burned by wildfires steadily decreased as the area receiving organized protection increased and the intensity of the protection efforts increased (Peterson, 1982). In recent years, the total area burned by wildfires in the United States has diminished to about one to two million ha per year (USDA Forest Service, 1992). Although the decrease in the number of hectares burned by wildfires across the United States has been significant over the last seventy years, the relative importance of wildfires in the southern United States in relation to other regions of the United States is significant. More hectares are burned by wildfires in the southern United States than in any other region of the country.


Circulation Pattern ENSO Event Fire Occurrence Wildland Fire Large Wildfire 
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© Springer-Verlag New York, Inc. 1998

Authors and Affiliations

  • Warren E. Heilman
  • Brian E. Potter
  • John I. Zerbe

There are no affiliations available

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