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Abstract

Accurate process-based prediction of climate change effects on wildfires requires coupling processes across orders of magnitude of time and space scales, because climate dynamic processes operate at relatively large scales (e.g., hemispherical and centennial), but fire behavior processes operate at relatively small scales (e.g., molecules and microseconds). In this review, we outline some of the current understanding of the processes by which climate/meteorology controls wildfire behavior by focusing on four critical stages of wildfire development: (1) fuel drying, (2) ignition, (3) spread, and (4) extinction. We identify some key mechanisms that are required for predicting climate change effects on fires, as well as gaps in our understanding of the processes linking climate and fires. It is currently not possible to make accurate predictions of climate change effects on wildfires due to the limited understanding of the linkage between general circulation model outputs and the local-scale meteorology to which fire behavior processes respond. WIREs Clim Change 2011 2 99–112 DOI: 10.1002/wcc.92

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