Global fire size distribution: From power law to log-normal

Stijn Hantson, Salvador Pueyo, Emilio Chuvieco

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

31 Scopus citations


Wildland fires are one of the main alleged examples of Self-Organised Criticality (SOC), with simple SOC models resulting in the expectation of a power-law fire size frequency distribution. Here, we test whether fire size distributions systematically follow a power law and analyse their spatial variation for eight distinct areas over the globe. For each of the areas, we examine the fire size frequency distribution using two types of plots, maximum likelihood estimation and chi-square tests. Log-normal emerges as a suitable option to fit the fire size distribution in this variety of environments. In only two of eight areas was the power law (which is a particular case of the log-normal) not rejected. Notably, the two parameters of log-normal are related to each other, displaying a general linear relation, which extends to the sites that can be described with a power law. These results do not necessarily refute the SOC hypothesis, but reveal the presence of other processes that are, at least, modulating the outcome of SOC in some areas.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)403-412
Number of pages10
JournalInternational Journal of Wildland Fire
Issue number4
StatePublished - 2016
Externally publishedYes

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Forestry
  • Ecology


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