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Cloud-to-ground lightning and near-surface fire weather control wildfire occurrence in Arctic tundra
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  • Jiaying He,
  • Tatiana Loboda,
  • Dong Chen,
  • Nancy French
Jiaying He
Tsinghua University

Corresponding Author:hjy0608@terpmail.umd.edu

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Tatiana Loboda
University of Maryland
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Dong Chen
University of Maryland, College Park
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Nancy French
Michigan Technological University
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Wildfire is common across the pan-Arctic tundra. Tundra fires exert significant impacts on terrestrial carbon balance and ecosystem functioning. Interactions between fire and climate change can enhance their impacts on the Arctic. However, the driving mechanisms of tundra fire occurrences remain poorly understood. This study focuses on identifying key environmental factors controlling fire occurrence in Arctic tundra of Alaska. Our random forest models, considering ignition source, fuel, fire weather, and topography, have shown a strong predictive capability with an overall accuracy above 91%. We found cloud-to-ground (CG) lightning probability by far the dominant driver controlling tundra fire occurrence. Warmer and drier near-surface weather was required to support burning, while fuel composition and topography have modest impacts on fire occurrence. Our results highlight the critical role of CG lightning in driving tundra fires and that incorporating lightning modeling is essential for fire monitoring, forecasting, and management in the Arctic.
28 Jan 2022Published in Geophysical Research Letters volume 49 issue 2. 10.1029/2021GL096814