Extreme-Value Models and Graphical Methods for Spatial Wildfire Risk Assessment

  • Daniela Cisneros

Student thesis: Doctoral Thesis


The statistical modeling of spatial extreme events, augmented by graphical models, provides a comprehensive framework for the development of techniques and models to describe natural phenomena in a variety of environmental, geoscience, and climate science applications. In a changing climate, the impact of natural hazards, such as wildfires, is believed to have evolved in frequency, size, and spatial extent, although regional responses may vary. The aforementioned impacts are of great significance due to their association with air pollution, irreversible harm to the environment and atmosphere, and the fact that they put human lives at risk. The prediction of wildfires holds significant importance within the realm of wildfire management due to its influence on the allocation of resources, the mitigation of detrimental consequences, and the subsequent recovery endeavors. Therefore, the development of robust statistical methodologies that can accurately forecast extreme wildfire occurrences across spatial and temporal dimensions is of great significance. In this thesis, we develop new spatial statistical models, combined with popular machine learning techniques, as well as novel extreme-value methods to enhance the prediction of wildfire risk using graphical models. First, in order to jointly efficiently model high-dimensional wildfire counts and burnt areas over the whole continguous United States, we propose a four-stage zero-inflated bivariate spatiotemporal model combining low-rank spatial models and random forests. Second, to model high values of the McArthur Forest Fire Danger Index over Australia, we develop a novel spatial extreme-value model based on mixtures of tree-based multivariate Pareto distributions. Our new methodology combines theoretically justified spatial extreme models with a computationally convenient graphical model framework to spatial problems in high dimensions efficiently. Third, we exploit recent advancements in deep learning and build a parametric regression model using graphic convolutional neural networks and the extended Generalized Pareto distribution, allow us to jointly model moderate and extreme wildfires observed on irregular spatial grid. We work with a novel dataset of Australian wildfires from 1999 to 2019, and analyse monthly spread over areas correspond to Statistical Area Level 1 regions. We highlight the efficacy of our newly proposed model and perform risk assessment for Australia and dense communities.
Date of AwardSep 11 2023
Original languageEnglish (US)
Awarding Institution
  • Computer, Electrical and Mathematical Sciences and Engineering
SupervisorRaphael Huser (Supervisor)


  • Statistics of extremes
  • Spatio-temporal statistics
  • Graphical models
  • Multivariate Extremes

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