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Leroy Westerling, a researcher with the California-Nevada Climate Applications Program (CNAP), a NOAA RISA team, co-authored a study titled, “Simulating burn severity maps at 30 meters in two forested regions in California.” Climate change is altering wildfire behavior and vegetation in forested regions.

Historically, California wildfires occurred more frequently at a lower severity which reduced surface fuels and encouraged forest growth. Modern forests now have higher tree density and fuel loads, increasing the severity of wildfires. As burn severity area and high severity patch size increases, predicting future wildfire burn severity maps becomes more necessary for policy-makers to support land use management relating to habitat loss, infrastructure, and fuel treatment scenarios. In this study, the research team developed two empirical models to test different vegetation regimes and their ability to use coarse vegetation to accurately model burn severity.

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