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Climate Change and Nighttime Fire Behavior †

Division of Atmospheric Sciences, Desert Research Institute, Reno, NV 89512, USA
School of Engineering, University of California-Merced, Merced, CA 95343, USA
USDA Forest Service, Portland, OR 97204, USA
Earth Lab, University of Colorado, Boulder, CO 80310, USA
USDA Forest Service, McCall, ID 83638, USA
Author to whom correspondence should be addressed.
Presented at the Third International Conference on Fire Behavior and Risk, Sardinia, Italy, 3–6 May 2022.
Environ. Sci. Proc. 2022, 17(1), 55;
Published: 10 August 2022
(This article belongs to the Proceedings of The Third International Conference on Fire Behavior and Risk)


It is well-documented that global nighttime temperatures have been increasing during the past few decades. For example, the average California nighttime temperature has increased at a rate of 0.7 °C per decade over the past 20 years. Temperature and atmospheric moisture (typically indicated by relative humidity in fire danger indices) are closely related, and dead fuel moisture (DFM) is a function of temperature and moisture via the equilibrium moisture content. Typically, as night temperature decreases, relative humidity increases, as does the DFM. Higher values of DFM is a factor in reducing fire behavior as the increased moisture reduces flammability. However, warmer nighttime temperatures and lower humidity allow fuel to stay drier, thus enabling fires to be more active throughout the night. Historically, fire management would often count on fires “laying down” at night as part of their tactical planning. However, an increasing number of incident reports across the western U.S have been highlighting active nocturnal fire behavior. This has consequences for firefighter safety and suppression success, impacting managed fire activities during the night, as well as the carryover into the next day. In this presentation, we examine the western U.S. trend in nighttime temperature in the context of nighttime fire behavior, discuss the potential fire management impact, and provide a global perspective.

Author Contributions

Conceptualization, T.B. and T.P.; methodology, T.B., J.A., D.M., L.A.S.D.; formal analysis, T.B., J.A., D.M., and L.A.S.D.; investigation, T.B., D.S., T.P.; resources, L.A.S.D., D.S., and T.P.; data curation, J.A. and L.A.S.D.; writing—original draft preparation, T.B.; writing—review and editing, T.B.; visualization, T.B. and J.A.; supervision, T.B.; project administration, T.B.; funding acquisition, T.B. and T.P. All authors have read and agreed to the published version of the manuscript.


This work was undertaken via U.S. Forest Service Supplemental Agreement 19-CS-11132543-079.

Data Availability Statement

Conflicts of Interest

The authors declare no conflict of interest.
Publisher’s Note: MDPI stays neutral with regard to jurisdictional claims in published maps and institutional affiliations.

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MDPI and ACS Style

Brown, T.; Abatzoglou, J.; McEvoy, D.; Skelly, D.; St. Denis, L.A.; Parkinson, T. Climate Change and Nighttime Fire Behavior. Environ. Sci. Proc. 2022, 17, 55.

AMA Style

Brown T, Abatzoglou J, McEvoy D, Skelly D, St. Denis LA, Parkinson T. Climate Change and Nighttime Fire Behavior. Environmental Sciences Proceedings. 2022; 17(1):55.

Chicago/Turabian Style

Brown, Timothy, John Abatzoglou, Dan McEvoy, Dana Skelly, Lise Ann St. Denis, and Tami Parkinson. 2022. "Climate Change and Nighttime Fire Behavior" Environmental Sciences Proceedings 17, no. 1: 55.

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