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Wenfu Tang, Cenlin He, Louisa K. Emmons, Junzhe Zhang
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Wildland Urban Interface

NRFSN number: 26488
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Fires in the wildland-urban interface (WUI) are an important issue globally. To understand the change of WUI, we develop a 9 km worldwide unified wildland-urban interface database for 2001–2020 with Random Forest models and satellite data. We find that WUI has been increasing in all populated continents from 2001 to 2020 and the global relative increase is 24%, with the largest relative increase (∼59%) over Africa. Global total fire counts decrease by 10% from 2005 to 2020, whereas the WUI fraction of fire counts increases by 23%. The global total burned area decreases by 22% from 2005 to 2020, whereas the WUI fraction of burned area increases by 35%. These are mainly due to the expansion of WUI area. On all the populated continents, the WUI fractions of fire counts are higher than the WUI fractions of burned area, implying that WUI fires tend to have smaller sizes than wildland fires. We also project future WUI changes for the years 2030 and 2040, together with the projection of future fire burned area under different shared socioeconomic pathways (SSP) scenarios in the Community Earth System Model version 2 (CESM2). The projected global WUI fraction (excluding Antarctica and the oceans) is 5.9% in 2040 compared to 4.8% in 2020. The global WUI fraction of burned area is projected to increase from now to 2040 under most scenarios analyzed in this study, unless the WUI area stays at the 2020 level together with the projected burned area under SSP4-4.5. This study is a first step to understanding the changes of WUI fires at the global scale and demonstrates a growing importance of WUI fires. The global multi-year WUI and WUI fire datasets developed in this study can facilitate future work quantifying the impacts of WUI fires on air quality and climate.


Tang W, He C, Emmons L, and Zhang J. 2024. Global expansion of wildland-urban interface (WUI) and WUI fires: insights from a multiyear worldwide unified database (WUWUI). Environmental Research Letters, 19(4), article 044028. DOI 10.1088/1748-9326/ad31da

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