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Research article2021Peer reviewedOpen access

Trends and patterns in annually burned forest areas and fire weather across the European boreal zone in the 20th and early 21st centuries

Drobyshev, Igor; Ryzhkova, Nina; Eden, Jonathan; Kitenberga, Mara; Pinto, Guilherme; Lindberg, Henrik; Krikken, Folmer; Yermokhin, Maxim; Bergeron, Yves; Kryshen, Alexander


Fire remains one of the main natural disturbance factors in the European boreal zone and understanding climatic forcing on fire activity is important for projecting effects of climate change on ecosystem services in this region. We analyzed records of annually burned areas in 16 administrative regions of the European boreal zone (countries or administrative units within countries) and fire weather variability to test for their spatio-temporal patterns over the 1901-2017 period.Over the 1992-2017 period, the region exhibited large variability in forest fire activity with the fire cycles varying from similar to 1600 (St. Petersburg region) to similar to 37000 years (Finland). The clustering of administrative units in respect to their burned area, suggested the presence of sub-regions with synchronous annual variability in burned areas. Large fire years (LFYs) in each of the clusters were associated with the development of the high pressure cell over or in immediate proximity of the regions in question in July, indicating climatic forcing of LFYs. Contingency analysis indicated that there was no long-term trend in the synchrony of LFYs observed simultaneously in several administrative units. We documented a trend towards higher values of Monthly Drought Code (MDC) for the months of April and May in the western (April) and northern (April and May) sections. The significant positive correlation between biome-wide fire activity index and June SNAO (Summer North Atlantic Oscillation) (r = 0.53) pointed to the importance of large-scale atmospheric circulation, in particular the summer European blocking pattern, in controlling forest fires across EBZ. The forest fire activity of the European boreal zone remains strongly connected to the annual climate variability. Higher frequency of strongly positive SNAO states in the future will likely synchronize years with a large area burned across the European boreal zone.


Forest fires; Disturbance regimes; Climate-fire interactions; Trends in drought conditions; Climate-related risks

Published in

Agricultural and Forest Meteorology
2021, Volume: 306, article number: 108467
Publisher: ELSEVIER

      SLU Authors

      Sustainable Development Goals

      SDG15 Protect, restore and promote sustainable use of terrestrial ecosystems, sustainably manage forests, combat desertification, and halt and reverse land degradation and halt biodiversity loss
      SDG13 Take urgent action to combat climate change and its impacts

      UKÄ Subject classification

      Forest Science

      Publication identifier


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