Articles | Volume 10, issue 3
16 Mar 2010
 | 16 Mar 2010

Assessment and validation of wildfire susceptibility and hazard in Portugal

J. C. Verde and J. L. Zêzere

Abstract. A comprehensive methodology to assess forest fire susceptibility, that uses variables of strong spatial correlation, is presented and applied for the Portuguese mainland. Our study is based on a thirty-year chronological series of burnt areas. The first twenty years (1975–1994) are used for statistical modelling, and the last ten (1995–2004) are used for the independent validation of results. The wildfire affected areas are crossed with a set of independent layers that are assumed to be relevant wildfire conditioning factors: elevation, slope, land cover, rainfall and temperature. Moreover, the wildfire recurring pattern is also considered, as a proxy variable expressing the influence of human action in wildfire occurrence. A sensitivity analysis is performed to evaluate the weight of each individual theme within the susceptibility model. Validation of the wildfire susceptibility models is made through the computation of success rate and prediction rate curves. The results show that it is possible to have a good compromise between the number of variables within the model and the model predictive power. Additionally, it is shown that integration of climatic variables does not produce any relevant increase in the prediction capacity of wildfire susceptibility models. Finally, the prediction rate curves produced by the independent cross validation are used to assess the probabilistic wildfire hazard at a scenario basis, for the complete mainland Portuguese territory.