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Research Project: Linking Climate Change Impacts on Forest Health, Fire Risk, and Vegetation and Snow Dynamics in California

Location: Sustainable Agricultural Water Systems Research

Project Number: 2032-13220-002-021-S
Project Type: Non-Assistance Cooperative Agreement

Start Date: Aug 1, 2023
End Date: Aug 1, 2025

The overall objective of this project is to close the gap between our understanding of regional climate scenarios and their effect on intertwining forest health, wildfire risk, and snow-pack dynamics in the state of California. Furthermore, we will address and attempt to quantify the vulnerabilities of the state’s natural and agricultural systems under these future climate scenarios.

Climate change is challenging the sustainability of California’s Natural and Working Lands and is requiring that producers and managers adopt climate-informed practices to adapt and even help combat climate change. To provide science-based practices, there is an urgent need to close the gap between regional climate model evaluation and practical applications. This project will perform research focused on management-relevant scales of climate models by downscaling projections to better capture surface fluxes (being observed at strategic study sites throughout California and being estimated via satellite remote sensing) to understand heat flux regimes and the subsequent potential over/underestimation of temperature and its extremes. Additionally, the project will link climate impacts on forest health and fire regimes, from ignition probability to fire behavior such as the seasonality, extent, rate of spread, and severity of fires, through a large scale regional analysis of optical and thermal imagery observed by satellite remote sensing. This scale and focus of work will also address issues related to snowpack dynamics in the state by combining regional climate modeling efforts, satellite remote sensing, and versions of land surface/hydrologic models.