Hanqin Tian, Solon and Martha Dixon Professor in Auburn University’s School of Forestry and Wildlife Sciences and Director of the International Center for Climate and Global Change Research, has been awarded $455,984 to study wildfire and climate variability as part of a 4-year, $2.5 million collaborative research grant from the National Science Foundation, the Department of Energy and the USDA Joint Program on Decadal and Regional Climate Prediction using Earth System Models. The project, “Wildfires and regional climate variability – Mechanisms, modeling, and prediction,” will seek to improve understanding and modeling capability of the two-way interaction between regional climate variability and wildfire. The other collaborating institutions are Georgia Institute of Technology, the US Forest Service, and the Department of Energy Pacific Northwest National Laboratory.
Understanding regional climate variability on a decade-level scale is important for developing adaptation strategies. Wildfire is an important but imperfectly understood factor in regions where it is prevalent. According to Tian, previous studies have only looked at the impact of climate on fire, or of fire on climate – not the cycle of interactions that researchers hypothesize.
Tian’s role in the project will be the development of a new open-source model, called Region-specific Fire Model with Ecosystem Feedbacks (RFMEF). This model will work within the Community Earth System Model (CESM1) to broaden the scope of understanding of the dynamics that work to influence regional climate. In turn, the data generated by the RFMEF model will be valuable to policy experts and scientists for both research and policy analysis in these regions.