in Three Southeastern Arizona
Sky Islands 1989-2006


NW side of Catalinas
View of the Catalinas from the northwest (Susan Taunton, April 2004)

Catastrophic wildfire in the sky islands of southeastern Arizona is a major concern in the spring and early summer months every year. Sky islands are highly localized mountain ranges that rise abruptly from the flat desert or grassland floor. Their remarkably heterogenous geology and topology provide habitat for an enormously diverse and broad range of animal and plant species.

When climate factors--winter rains and spring temperatures--combine to dry out vegetation in the spring months, wildfire vulnerability becomes critical. This study analyzed a time series of satellite imagery (AVHRR/1km resolution) and climate data and generated a series of fire season maps that depict Fire Season Fuel Moisture Stress (FSFMS), or vegetation dryness, in the Catalina-Rincon, Huachuca and Chiricahua sky island regions between 1989 and 2006.

This work, based on results from a 2004 Geography masters thesis at the University of Arizona, was supported by Wildfire Alternatives (WALTER), an EPA-funded, interdisciplinary project located at the University of Arizona.