Cross-country risk quantification of extreme wildfires in Mediterranean Europe

Risk Anal. 2023 Sep;43(9):1745-1762. doi: 10.1111/risa.14075. Epub 2022 Dec 12.


We estimate the country-level risk of extreme wildfires defined by burned area (BA) for Mediterranean Europe and carry out a cross-country comparison. To this end, we avail of the European Forest Fire Information System (EFFIS) geospatial data from 2006 to 2019 to perform an extreme value analysis. More specifically, we apply a point process characterization of wildfire extremes using maximum likelihood estimation. By modeling covariates, we also evaluate potential trends and correlations with commonly known factors that drive or affect wildfire occurrence, such as the Fire Weather Index as a proxy for meteorological conditions, population density, land cover type, and seasonality. We find that the highest risk of extreme wildfires is in Portugal (PT), followed by Greece (GR), Spain (ES), and Italy (IT) with a 10-year BA return level of 50'338 ha, 33'242 ha, 25'165 ha, and 8'966 ha, respectively. Coupling our results with existing estimates of the monetary impact of large wildfires suggests expected losses of 162-439 million € (PT), 81-219 million € (ES), 41-290 million € (GR), and 18-78 million € (IT) for such 10-year return period events. SUMMARY: We model the risk of extreme wildfires for Italy, Greece, Portugal, and Spain in form of burned area return levels, compare them, and estimate expected losses.

Keywords: environmental economics; environmental hazards; extreme value statistics; risk analysis; wildfires.