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Climate and Outbreaks of the Mountain Pine Beetle

 Eric Creedon
Eric Creeden
Geography Master's Student
Project is funded by the USGS Western Mountain Initiative
Regional analysis of climate and weather conditions related to outbreaks of Mountain Pine Beetle (Dendroctonus ponderosae Hopkins) in Lodgepole Pine (Pinus contorta) forests of the western USA.

The spatial distribution of the Mountain Pine Beetle (MPB) species covers a large geographical extent and encompasses a variety of climatic regimes. MPB outbreaks have occurred across the entire beetles’ range indicating forest susceptibility to attack over much of the region.

Drought stress impacts on host trees has been commonly cited as a precursor to outbreak for some bark beetle species, and temperature plays a direct role in the timing and duration of the events of the MPB’s life cycle.

Here we present research examining mountain pine beetle outbreaks in lodgepole pine forests across the western United States through a case study approach. Large regions of MPB outbreak across the western US were selected for analysis, and gridded monthly climate data from the parameter-elevation regressions on independent slopes model (PRISM) and variable infiltration capacity macroscale hydrologic model (VIC) were aggregated and compiled for each location.

Trends in chosen climate variables were analyzed at annual, seasonal, and monthly time intervals. We report mean climate conditions prior, during, and following outbreaks as well as variability among locations.