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Biogeosciences An interactive open-access journal of the European Geosciences Union
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© Author(s) 2019. This work is distributed under
the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License.
© Author(s) 2019. This work is distributed under
the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License.

Submitted as: research article 28 Feb 2019

Submitted as: research article | 28 Feb 2019

Review status
This discussion paper is a preprint. A revision of the manuscript was accepted for the journal Biogeosciences (BG).

Sensitivity of simulated historical burned area to environmental andanthropogenic controls: A comparison of seven fire models

Lina Teckentrup1, Sandy P. Harrison2, Stijn Hantson3, Angelika Heil1, Joe R. Melton4, Matthew Forrest5, Fang Li6, Chao Yue7, Almut Arneth3, Thomas Hickler5, Stephen Sitch8, and Gitta Lasslop1,5 Lina Teckentrup et al.
  • 1Max Planck Institute for Meteorology, 20146 Hamburg, Germany
  • 2School of Archaeology, Geography and Environmental Sciences (SAGES), University of Reading, Whiteknights, Reading, UK
  • 3Karlsruhe Institute of Technology, Institute of Meteorology and Climate Research, Atmospheric Environmental Research, 82467 Garmisch-Partenkirchen, Germany
  • 4Climate Research Division, Environment Canada, Victoria, BC, V8W 2Y2, Canada
  • 5Senckenberg Biodiversity and Climate Research Institute (BiK-F), 60325 Frankfurt am Main, Germany
  • 6International Center for Climate and Environmental Sciences, Institute of Atmospheric Physics, Chinese Academy of Sciences
  • 7Laboratoire des Sciences du Climat et de l'Environnement–Institute Pierre Simon Laplace, Commissariat à l'Énergie Atomique et aux Énergies Alternatives (CEA)–Centre National de la Recherche Scientifique (CNRS)–Université de Versailles Saint Quentin
  • 8College of Life and Environmental Sciences, University of Exeter

Abstract. Understanding how fire regimes change over time is of major importance for understanding their future impact on the Earth system, including society. Large differences in simulated burned area between fire models show that there is substantial uncertainty associated with modelling global change impacts on fire regimes. We draw here on sensitivity simulations made by seven global dynamic vegetation models participating in the Fire Model Intercomparison Project (FireMIP) to understand how differences in models translate into differences in fire regime projections. The sensitivity experiments isolate the impact of the individual drivers of fire, which are prescribed in the simulations. Specifically these drivers are atmospheric CO2, population density, land-use change, lightning and climate.

The seven models capture spatial patterns in burned area. However, they show considerable differences in the burned area trends since 1900. We analyse the trajectories of differences between the sensitivity and reference simulation to improve our understanding of what drives the global trend in burned area. Where it is possible, we link the inter-model differences to model assumptions.

Overall, these analyses reveal that the strongest differences leading to diverging trajectories are related to the way anthropogenic ignitions and suppression, as well as the effects of land-use on vegetation and fire, are incorporated in individual models. This points to a need to improve our understanding and model representation of the relationship between human activities and fire to improve our abilities to model fire for global change applications. Only two models show a strong response to CO2 and the response to lightning on global scale is low for all models. The sensitivity to climate shows a spatially heterogeneous response and globally only two models show a significant trend. It was not possible to attribute the climate-induced changes in burned area to model assumptions or specific climatic parameters. However, the strong influence of climate on the inter-annual variability in burned area, shown by all the models, shows that we need to pay attention to the simulation of fire weather but also meteorological influences on biomass accumulation and fuel properties in order to better capture extremes in fire behavior.

Lina Teckentrup et al.
Interactive discussion
Status: final response (author comments only)
Status: final response (author comments only)
AC: Author comment | RC: Referee comment | SC: Short comment | EC: Editor comment
Lina Teckentrup et al.
Lina Teckentrup et al.
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Publications Copernicus
Short summary
This study compares simulated burned area of seven global vegetation models provided by the fire model intercomparison project (FireMIP) since 1900. We investigate the influence of five forcing factors: Atmospheric CO2, population density, land-use change, lightning and climate. We find that the anthropogenic factors lead to the largest spread between models. Trends due to climate are mostly not significant but climate strongly influences the interannual variability of burned area.
This study compares simulated burned area of seven global vegetation models provided by the fire...