Wildfire is a critical vulnerability for water systems in the Intermountain West, particularly those with intakes located in or downstream of forested areas. This project seeks to increase our understanding of the status of water system resilience in the context of changing wildfire risk. It will make key advances by explicitly quantifying the role of fine-scale, spatially distributed snowpack in wildfire risk/resilience under a range of historical precipitation/temperature conditions, as a way to anticipate future wildfire risks under climate change scenarios. The critical advances in scale will support the use of finer land surface/ecological classifications in wildfire risk assessments of future climate projections.
The research objectives are to utilize historical and future snowpack simulations to understand the evolving risk of wildfire across the WWA three-state region. The novelty of the proposed work lies in: 1) better characterizing connections between fire and historic and future snowpack regimes through leveraging ground observations, satellite data, and modeling; and 2) utilizing a recently developed technique to consider the compounded effects of future snowpack loss and summer precipitation/temperature extremes on wildfire risk. This project has profound implications for future wildfire management and adaptation, particularly in the water sector.
Once completed, the proposed work will contribute to understanding future wildfire risks across diverse, fire-prone areas of the Intermountain West and will improve stakeholder resilience to climate change. We will share results with stakeholders and forest managers in user-oriented products to improve wildfire management and prescribed fire planning. The results will provide cross-disciplinary knowledge of historic and future hydrological and ecological hazards, which will benefit not only water managers but also forest management agencies. Results from this project will also inform stakeholder-focused activities.