A marginal modelling approach for predicting wildfire extremes across the contiguous United States

Eleanor D’Arcy, Callum J. R. Murphy-Barltrop, Rob Shooter, Emma S. Simpson

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


This paper details a methodology proposed for the EVA 2021 conference data challenge. The aim of this challenge was to predict the number and size of wildfires over the contiguous US between 1993 and 2015, with more importance placed on extreme events. In the data set provided, over 14% of both wildfire count and burnt area observations are missing; the objective of the data challenge was to estimate a range of marginal probabilities from the distribution functions of these missing observations. To enable this prediction, we make the assumption that the marginal distribution of a missing observation can be informed using non-missing data from neighbouring locations. In our method, we select spatial neighbourhoods for each missing observation and fit marginal models to non-missing observations in these regions. For the wildfire counts, we assume the compiled data sets follow a zero-inflated negative binomial distribution, while for burnt area values, we model the bulk and tail of each compiled data set using non-parametric and parametric techniques, respectively. Cross validation is used to select tuning parameters, and the resulting predictions are shown to significantly outperform the benchmark method proposed in the challenge outline. We conclude with a discussion of our modelling framework, and evaluate ways in which it could be extended.
Original languageEnglish (US)
StatePublished - Apr 1 2023
Externally publishedYes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Engineering (miscellaneous)
  • Economics, Econometrics and Finance (miscellaneous)
  • Statistics and Probability


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