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Forests 2013, 4(1), 197-217; doi:10.3390/f4010197

Spatial Characterization of Wildfire Orientation Patterns in California

1,* , 1
1 Universidade Técnica de Lisboa, Instituto Superior de Agronomia, Centro de Estudos Florestais,Tapada da Ajuda, 1349-017 Lisboa, Portugal 2 Department of Environmental Science Policy and Management, University of California - Berkeley,130 Mulford Hall, Berkeley, CA 94720-3114, USA
* Author to whom correspondence should be addressed.
Received: 9 November 2012 / Revised: 2 March 2013 / Accepted: 18 March 2013 / Published: 22 March 2013
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Using 100 years of fire perimeter maps, we investigate the existence of geographical patterns in fire orientation across California. We computed fire perimeter orientation, at the watershed level, using principal component analysis. Circular statistics were used to test for the existence of preferential fire perimeter orientations. Where perimeters displayed preferential orientation, we searched for evidence of orographic channeling by comparing mean fire orientation with watershed orientation. Results show that in California, 49% of the burnt area is associated with watersheds, where fires displayed preferential orientation. From these, 25% of the burnt area is aligned along the NE/SW orientation and 18% in the E/W orientation. In 27 out of 86 watersheds with preferential fire alignment, there is also correspondence between mean fire orientation and watershed orientation. Topographic influence on fire spread and dominant wind patterns during the fire season can account for the consistency in fire perimeter orientation in these regions. Our findings highlight the historical pattern of fire perimeter orientation and identify watersheds with potential orographic channeling.
Keywords: wildfire perimeter orientation; orographic channeling; California; circular statistics; watershed wildfire perimeter orientation; orographic channeling; California; circular statistics; watershed
This is an open access article distributed under the Creative Commons Attribution License (CC BY 3.0).

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Barros, A.M.; Pereira, J.M.; Moritz, M.A.; Stephens, S.L. Spatial Characterization of Wildfire Orientation Patterns in California. Forests 2013, 4, 197-217.

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