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One of the best predictors of western wildfires could be how hot it's been, according to a new geography study by the University of Cincinnati.
Geography professor Susanna Tong and her students studied a variety of weather, microclimate and ground conditions in historic fires around Phoenix, Arizona, and Las Vegas, Nevada, to determine which might be the most important in predicting the risk of wildfire.
Temperature - Predictor - Humidity - Rainfall - Moisture
They found that temperature was a better predictor than humidity, rainfall, moisture content of the vegetation and soil and other factors. They presented their findings this month at the American Association of Geographers conference in Washington, D.C.
"We examined a long list of data. The results show that the maximum temperatures had the highest correlation with fires," UC student Diqi Zeng said. "That makes sense because if you have high temperatures, a fire is easier to ignite."
California - Year - Wildfire - Century - United
California last year witnessed the deadliest wildfire of the past century in the United States—a blaze that killed at least 88 people and caused an estimated $9 billion in damage, according to state insurers. Four of the state's five biggest wildfires on record have broken out since 2012.
Identifying the risk factors is an important step in preventing future blazes, Tong said.
UC - Student - Researcher - Shitian - Wan
UC student researcher Shitian Wan said she wanted to study wildfire after watching news coverage of the devastating 2018 Camp Fire in California, which her study referenced.
"The recent California wildfire, which is the deadliest and most destructive wildfire on record, showed clearly the devastating consequences. A better understanding of wildfire incidents is therefore crucial in fire prevention and future planning," their study said.
Wan - Research - Hers - Difference - People
Wan said she hopes research like hers will make a difference to people living in areas of high fire risk.
"What I'm trying to do is investigate the causal factors to create a risk map to examine where wildfires are most...
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