2017 Conference on Fire Prediction Across Scales

23.10 - 25.10.2017  
New York, USA
Contact person:
Jaclyn Rabinowitz, This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.
Workshop report: 
> Access

The PAGES-supported "Fire Prediction Across Scales" conference will be held from 23-25 October 2017 at Columbia University, New York, USA.

This is an open conference for approximately 150 participants.


Columbia University
Morningside Heights Campus
116th St
New York
NY 10027, USA


A paleo-ecological perspective is necessary to understand what has caused changes in fire patterns prior to the 20th century, and to constrain model-based projections of fire in the future. The timescales covered will be primarily, but not limited to, the Holocene, the 20th century, and the next 100 years.


Fire is a natural ecological process, an important land use tool, a destructive force, and a major source of trace gases and aerosols. Drivers of fire activity occur at very different spatiotemporal scales, making the modeling of these combined effects a challenging task. The spread rate of a fire can vary by an order of magnitude from hour to hour with changes in the weather. Over timescales of years to decades, climate variations may be the dominant drivers of change in fire activity while, over longer timescales, changes in fire activity may be affected more by changes in fuel type, abundance, connectivity and fire management policy.

The complex interactions among fire, climate, vegetation and humans, and the differing timescales over which various factors are important, make it challenging to determine how the evolution of these variables and related feedbacks will impact overall fire activity in a changing climate. Uncertainty in future changes to fire activity amplifies uncertainty in the corresponding impacts on ecological and socio-economic systems. Modern satellite records have revolutionized our understanding of fire activity and its drivers, but are too short to constrain their full ranges. Paleo-ecological constraints provide a necessary ‘out-of-sample’ test of process-based and empirical model prediction of fire activity and effects.


The workshop will be organized around the themes of:

Fire Prediction

Synoptic scales: How well can fire occurrence in the next week be predicted? Once a fire has started, how well can its behavior be predicted over the course of hours and days? Are such predictions making use of the state of the art in fuel and terrain mapping, weather forecasting (including lightning), characterizations of human activity, and for model initialization, modern satellite-based fire detections?

Sub-seasonal and seasonal scales: Are there regions where fire potential can be reliably assessed at sub-seasonal (up to 60 days) and seasonal (more than 2 months) time-scales? What are the hard predictability limits for fire-prone tropical and extratropical regions? What are the roles of statistical and dynamical climate forecast ensembles?

Interannual, decadal and centennial time scales: What are the main interannual, decadal and centennial controls on regional fire activity, including natural vegetation changes, land use and fire management capacity, and large-scale climatic variations? How do these differ between statistical and process-based estimates? What is the potential value of including higher-resolution fire behavior models in Earth System models as both become more sophisticated?

Model benchmarking: How well do models used for projections of future fire activity perform for the observed period? What are appropriate observational benchmarks for models at different scales, including paleoclimate reconstructions, operational records from fire management agencies, and satellite estimates of active fires, burned area, land cover change, and emissions of trace gases and aerosols? What potential do modern data assimilation techniques hold for constraining estimates of fire activity and behavior?

Fire Management & Impacts

Fire management: What advances can be made in fire prescription, prevention, suppression, and mitigation using the state of the art in fire prediction, at the wildland/urban interface in particular? How does fire management policy make use of future estimates of fire activity and associated impacts? From what other sectors can we learn about how to use weather and climate predictions?

Smoke: Is there a role for advanced fire prediction in chemical weather forecasting and climate-chemistry interactions, particularly as they relate to air quality impacts and climatic effects of smoke? What is the role of assimilated trace gas and aerosol satellite retrievals for making such predictions?

Ecological and carbon cycle impacts: Do advanced fire prediction tools have a role in ecological and impacts research, particularly in the context of Earth System models used to project future states of the terrestrial carbon cycle?


The goals of the conference are to synthesize cutting-edge research across these topics and to identify areas where important advances in fire prediction can be made over the next decade. A strong paleo-ecological component is required to synthesize the cutting edge in charcoal, tree-ring, and biomarker-based reconstructions of fire, reconstructions of vegetation, and historical characterizations of human activity, including the use and suppression of fire.

Preliminary program

Access the preliminary program here (pdf, 444KB).

Key speakers

The following invited speakers have all confirmed their participation. The expertise of the speakers spans the range of the conference themes, including paleo-fire, which we expect to be reflected in the overall conference participation.

Jennifer Marlon (Yale University)
David Bowman (University of Tasmania)
Ruth DeFries (Columbia University)
Silvia Kloster (Max Planck Institute for Meteorology)
Maria Uriarte (Columbia University)
Ed Delgado (Bureau of Land Management)
Don Wagner (Idaho Department of Lands)
Mark Finney (US Forest Service)
Dominique Bachelet (Oregon State)
Leroy Westerling (UC Merced)
James Randerson (UC Irvine)
Andy Robertson (Columbia University)


The deadline for abstract and travel support applications is 1 August 2017. Submit abstracts here:


Register here:

Organizing committee

Robert Field, Kátia Fernandes, Park Williams, Ruth DeFries, Suzana Camargo, Adam Sobel, Jaclyn Rabinowitz.

Further information

Access the official website:

For questions or further information, please contact Jaclyn Rabinowitz: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

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