Preferred atmospheric circulations associated with favorable prescribed burns in the Gulf of Mexico coast, USA

Chelsea S. Kross, Robert V. Rohli, Jena A. Moon, Auriel M.V. Fournier, Mark S. Woodrey, J. Andrew Nyman

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Background: Application of prescribed fire in natural plant communities is an important wildlife habitat management tool. Prescribed fire managers have suggested anecdotally that changing weather patterns may be influencing the frequency of days that have optimal conditions to conduct coastal marsh burns along the US Gulf of Mexico coast. Our study objectives were to (1) determine whether the frequency of atmospheric circulation patterns associated with prescribed fire prescriptions has changed from 1979 to 2018 for the Gulf Coast and (2) identify circulation patterns preferred by land managers for implementing prescribed fire. Results: While coastal marsh habitat is threatened by climate change and human-associated degradation, weather type frequency was not identified as an important factor related to the application of prescribed fire, as the frequency of weather circulation types has not changed significantly over time (p > 0.05). However, some weather circulation patterns seem more advantageous (e.g., offshore winds) or disadvantageous (e.g., wet cold fronts and high winds) for consideration by prescribed fire applicators across the Gulf. Conclusions: Further insight into the weather conditions preferred and avoided by land managers along the Gulf of Mexico will improve prediction-based methods for identifying burn windows from weather forecasts. Land managers face many challenges in protecting coastal systems, while also reducing management conflicts (i.e., smoke transport) with local communities. Understanding how constraints such as urbanization, climate change, and sea-level rise interact to affect prescribed fire application will be an increasingly important aspect for developing successful adaptive management plans.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number7
JournalFire Ecology
Issue number1
StatePublished - Dec 2023


  • Coastal Plain
  • Gulf of Mexico
  • High marsh
  • Planning
  • Prescribed fire
  • Weather
  • Wildland fire management

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Forestry
  • Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics
  • Environmental Science (miscellaneous)


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