Estimating post-fire debris-flow hazards prior to wildfire using a statistical analysis of historical distributions of fire severity from remote sensing data

Dennis M. Staley, Anne C. Tillery, Jason W. Kean, Luke A. McGuire, Hannah E. Pauling, Francis K. Rengers, Joel B. Smith

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

23 Scopus citations

Abstract

Following wildfire, mountainous areas of the western United States are susceptible to debris flow during intense rainfall. Convective storms that can generate debris flows in recently burned areas may occur during or immediately after the wildfire, leaving insufficient time for development and implementation of risk mitigation strategies. We present a method for estimating post-fire debris-flow hazards before wildfire using historical data to define the range of potential fire severities for a given location based on the statistical distribution of severity metrics obtained from remote sensing. Estimates of debris-flow likelihood, magnitude and triggering rainfall threshold based on the statistically simulated fire severity data provide hazard predictions consistent with those calculated from fire severity data collected after wildfire. Simulated fire severity data also produce hazard estimates that replicate observed debris-flow occurrence, rainfall conditions and magnitude at a monitored site in the San Gabriel Mountains of southern California. Future applications of this method should rely on a range of potential fire severity scenarios for improved pre-fire estimates of debris-flow hazard. The method presented here is also applicable to modelling other post-fire hazards, such as flooding and erosion risk, and for quantifying trends in observed fire severity in a changing climate.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)595-608
Number of pages14
JournalInternational Journal of Wildland Fire
Volume27
Issue number9
DOIs
StatePublished - 2018

Keywords

  • Hazard assessment
  • mass movement
  • risk

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Forestry
  • Ecology

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