ENSO modulates wildfire activity in China

Keyan Fang, Qichao Yao, Zhengtang Guo, Ben Zheng, Jianhua Du, Fangzhong Qi, Ping Yan, Jie Li, Tinghai Ou, Jane Liu, Maosheng He, Valerie Trouet

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

49 Scopus citations


China is a key region for understanding fire activity and the drivers of its variability under strict fire suppression policies. Here, we present a detailed fire occurrence dataset for China, the Wildfire Atlas of China (WFAC; 2005–2018), based on continuous monitoring from multiple satellites and calibrated against field observations. We find that wildfires across China mostly occur in the winter season from January to April and those fire occurrences generally show a decreasing trend after reaching a peak in 2007. Most wildfires (84%) occur in subtropical China, with two distinct clusters in its southwestern and southeastern parts. In southeastern China, wildfires are mainly promoted by low precipitation and high diurnal temperature ranges, the combination of which dries out plant tissue and fuel. In southwestern China, wildfires are mainly promoted by warm conditions that enhance evaporation from litter and dormant plant tissues. We further find a fire occurrence dipole between southwestern and southeastern China that is modulated by the El Niño-Southern Oscillation (ENSO).

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number1764
JournalNature communications
Issue number1
StatePublished - Dec 1 2021

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Chemistry(all)
  • Biochemistry, Genetics and Molecular Biology(all)
  • Physics and Astronomy(all)


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