Uncovering the hydro‑meteorological drivers responsible for forest fires utilizing geospatial techniques

In Theoretical and Applied Climatology
Peer-reviewed Article
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Forest fires have become a growing concern worldwide, with climate change exacerbating their frequency and intensity. In
the Simlipal region of India, forest fires are relatively rare; however, in 2021, significant damage occurred in the buffer area’s
forests. Understanding the driving factors behind these events is essential for developing effective management strategies.
This study investigates the impact of hydro-meteorological conditions on forest fire causes in the Simlipal region by analyzing
Terra climatic data and geo-statistics for the period of 1984 to 2021. Long-term trends were determined using non-parametric
tests on the Google Earth Engine (GEE) cloud computing platform. Our findings reveal that the maximum burned area location
has a decreasing trend in Land Surface Temperature (LST), with a small portion (<10%) showing an increasing trend
(0.02 °C/year) near burned locations. Wind speed is decreasing at a rate of −0.006 m/s/year. The sudden forest fires are
caused by the combined effect of increasing LST and decreasing wind speed in some areas (<10% of the region). However,
the major factor contributing to forest fires in the entire area is the rising trend of annual potential water deficit and actual
evapotranspiration, as well as an increasing trend of minimum temperature. The soil moisture deficit during the summer
season, especially between 2012 and 2021, contributed to forest fires in the burned area. The soil moisture deficit during the
summer season, particularly from 2012 to 2021, played a significant role in the occurrence of forest fires in the affected area.
The study emphasized the need for increased attention to this region in order to preserve biodiversity, which was assessed
through an analysis of burned severity mapping in GEE (Google Earth Engine). These findings have important implications
for future forest management strategies in the Simlipal region. Climate variability is likely to exacerbate the frequency and
intensity of forest fires in the region, necessitating effective management strategies to mitigate their impact. Such strategies
could involve improving fire prevention and control measures, such as creating fire breaks and increasing the availability of
fire-fighting equipment, as well as enhancing forest monitoring systems to detect potential fires early. Additionally, efforts
to address climate change, proper management of land use practices, and reduce greenhouse gas emissions could help to
mitigate the future impacts of forest fires in the Simlipal region and elsewhere.

Saurabh Kumar
Suraj Kumar