Predicting wildfire induced changes to runoff: A review and synthesis of modeling approaches

Daniel Partington, Mark Thyer, Margaret Shanafield, David McInerney, Seth Westra, Holger Maier, Craig Simmons, Barry Croke, Anthony John Jakeman, Hoshin Gupta, Dmitri Kavetski

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

12 Scopus citations


Wildfires elicit a diversity of hydrological changes, impacting processes that drive both water quantity and quality. As wildfires increase in frequency and severity, there is a need to assess the implications for the hydrological response. Wildfire-related hydrological changes operate at three distinct timescales: the immediate fire aftermath, the recovery phase, and long-term across multiple cycles of wildfire and regrowth. Different dominant processes operate at each timescale. Consequentially, models used to predict wildfire impacts need an explicit representation of different processes, depending on modeling objectives and wildfire impact timescale. We summarize existing data-driven, conceptual, and physically based models used to assess wildfire impacts on runoff, identifying the dominant assumptions, process representations, timescales, and key limitations of each model type. Given the substantial observed and projected changes to wildfire regimes and associated hydrological impacts, it is likely that physically based models will become increasingly important. This is due to their capacity both to simulate simultaneous changes to multiple processes, and their use of physical and biological principles to support extrapolation beyond the historical record. Yet benefits of physically based models are moderated by their higher data requirements and lower computational speed. We argue that advances in predicting hydrological impacts from wildfire will come through combining these physically based models with new computationally faster conceptual and reduced-order models. The aim is to combine the strengths and overcome weaknesses of the different model types, enabling simulations of critical water resources scenarios representing wildfire-induced changes to runoff. This article is categorized under: Water and Life > Conservation, Management, and Awareness Science of Water > Hydrological Processes Science of Water > Water and Environmental Change.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article numbere1599
JournalWiley Interdisciplinary Reviews: Water
Issue number5
StatePublished - Sep 1 2022


  • hydrological modeling
  • runoff prediction
  • wildfire disturbance

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Oceanography
  • Ecology
  • Aquatic Science
  • Water Science and Technology
  • Ocean Engineering
  • Management, Monitoring, Policy and Law


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