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

Author: Touma, Danielle; Stevenson, Samantha; Swain, Daniel L.; Singh, Deepti; Kalashnikov, Dmitri A.; Huang, Xingying

Description: 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 colocated 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.

Subject headings: Wildfire; Rainfall; Extreme weather; Western United States; Pacific Northwest; Fire weather; Climate change

Publication year: 2022

Journal or book title: Science Advances

Volume: 8

Issue: 13

Pages: eabm0320

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Serial number: 3609

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