Picture: Fire in the forest. Credit: Pixabay (Pexels).

Global fire–vegetation models are widely used, but there has been limited evaluation of how well they represent various aspects of fire regimes. For this reason, an international team of researchers performed a systematic evaluation of simulations made by nine FireMIP models in order to quantify their ability to reproduce a range of fire and vegetation benchmarks.

While some FireMIP models are better at representing certain aspects of the fire regime, no model clearly outperforms all other models across the full range of variables assessed.

Benchmarking scores indicated that seven out of nine FireMIP models were able to represent the spatial pattern in burnt area. The models also reproduced the seasonality in burnt area reasonably well but struggled to simulate fire season length and were largely unable to represent interannual variations in burnt area. However, the models that represented cropland fires showed improved simulation of fire seasonality in the Northern Hemisphere.

The three FireMIP models which explicitly simulated individual fires were able to reproduce the spatial pattern in number of fires, but the fire sizes were too small in key regions, and this resulted in an underestimation of burnt area. The correct representation of spatial and seasonal patterns in vegetation appeared to correlate with a better representation of burnt area.

Two older fire models included in the ensemble (LPJ–GUESS–GlobFIRM, MC2) clearly performed less well globally than other models, but it was difficult to distinguish between the remaining ensemble members. Some of these models were better at representing certain aspects of the fire regime but none clearly outperforms all other models across the full range of variables assessed.

  • Paper: Hantson, S., Kelley, D. I., Arneth, A., Harrison, S. P., Archibald, S., Bachelet, D., Forrest, M., Hickler, T., Lasslop, G., Li, F., Mangeon, S., Melton, J. R., Nieradzik, L., Rabin, S. S., Prentice, I. C., Sheehan, T., Sitch, S., Teckentrup, L., Voulgarakis, A., and Yue, C.: Quantitative assessment of fire and vegetation properties in simulations with fire-enabled vegetation models from the Fire Model Intercomparison Project, Geosci. Model Dev., 13, 3299–3318, https://doi.org/10.5194/gmd-13-3299-2020, 2020.