Variability and drivers of extreme fire weather in fire-prone areas of south-eastern AustraliaSarah Harris A C , Graham Mills A and Timothy Brown B
A School of Earth, Atmosphere and Environment, Monash University, Wellington Road, Clayton, Vic. 3800, Australia.
B Division of Atmospheric Sciences, Desert Research Institute, 2215 Raggio Parkway, Reno, NV 89511, USA.
C Corresponding author. Email: email@example.com
International Journal of Wildland Fire 26(3) 177-190 https://doi.org/10.1071/WF16118
Submitted: 23 June 2016 Accepted: 25 December 2016 Published: 13 February 2017
Most of the life and property losses due to bushfires in south-eastern Australia occur under extreme fire weather conditions – strong winds, high temperatures, low relative humidity (RH) and extended drought. However, what constitutes extreme, and the values of the weather ingredients and their variability, differs regionally. Using a gridded dataset to identify the highest 10 fire weather days from 1972 to 2012, as defined by McArthur’s Forest Fire Danger Index (FFDI), for 24 sites across Victoria and nearby, we analyse the extent and variability of these highest 10 FFDI days, and of the contributing temperature, RH, wind speed, wind direction and drought indices. We document the occurrence of these events by time of day, month of occurrence and inter-annual variability. We find there is considerable variability among regions in the highest FFDI days and also the contributing weather and drought parameters, with some regional groupings apparent. Many major fire events occurred on these highest 10 fire weather days; however there are also days in which extreme fire weather occurred yet no known major fires are recorded. The results from this study will be an additional valuable resource to fire agencies in fire risk planning by basing fire management decisions on site-specific extreme fire weather conditions.
Additional keywords: McArthur’s Forest Fire Danger Index (FFDI), regional groupings of FFDI, Victorian FFDI variability, WRF gridded dataset.
ReferencesBlanchi R, Lucas C, Leonard J, Finkele K (2010) Meteorological conditions and wildfire-related house loss in Australia. International Journal of Wildland Fire 19, 914–926.
| Meteorological conditions and wildfire-related house loss in Australia.CrossRef |
Blanchi R, Leonard J, Haynes K, Opie K, James M, de Oliveira FD (2014) Environmental circumstances surrounding bushfire fatalities in Australia 1901–2011. Environmental Science & Policy 37, 192–203.
| Environmental circumstances surrounding bushfire fatalities in Australia 1901–2011.CrossRef |
Bradstock RA, Gill AM (2001) Living with fire and biodiversity at the urban edge: in search of a sustainable solution to the human protection problem in southern Australia. Journal of Mediterranean Ecology 2, 179–195.
Brown T, Mills G, Harris S, Podnar D, Reinbold H, Fearon M (2016) A bias corrected WRF mesoscale fire weather dataset for Victoria, Australia 1972–2012. Journal of Southern Hemisphere Earth System Science 66, 281–313.
| A bias corrected WRF mesoscale fire weather dataset for Victoria, Australia 1972–2012.CrossRef |
Clarke H, Lucas C, Smith P (2012) Changes in Australian fire weather between 1973 and 2010. International Journal of Climatology 33, 933–941.
Dowdy AJ, Mills GA, Finkele K, de Groot W (2010) Index sensitivity analysis applied to the Canadian Forest Fire Weather Index and the McArthur Forest Fire danger Index. Meteorological Applications 17, 298–310.
Ellis S, Kanowski P, Whelan R (2004) National Inquiry of Bushfire Mitigation and Management. Commonwealth of Australia, Canberra.
Fox-Hughes P (2008) A fire danger climatology for Tasmania. Australian Meteorological Magazine 57, 109–120.
Fox-Hughes P (2011) Impact of more frequent observations on the understanding of Tasmanian fire danger. Journal of Applied Meteorology and Climatology 50, 1617–1626.
| Impact of more frequent observations on the understanding of Tasmanian fire danger.CrossRef |
Gallant AJE, Reeder MJ, Risbey JS, Hennessy KJ (2013) The characteristics of seasonal-scale droughts in Australia, 1911–2009. International Journal of Climatology 33, 1658–1672.
| The characteristics of seasonal-scale droughts in Australia, 1911–2009.CrossRef |
Gill AM, Moore PHR (1998) Big versus small fires: the bushfires of Greater Sydney, January 1994. In ‘Large forest fires’. (Ed. JM Moreno) pp. 49–68. (Backhuys: Leiden)
Griffiths D (1999) Improved formula for the drought factor in McArthur’s Forest Fire Danger Meter. Australian Forestry 62, 202–206.
| Improved formula for the drought factor in McArthur’s Forest Fire Danger Meter.CrossRef |
Harris S, Mills G, Brown T (2016) Characterising fire weather for Victoria, Australia. Report to the Department of Environment, Land, Water and Planning. June 2016, Melbourne, Vic.
Jones D, Wang W, Fawcett R (2009) A high quality spatial historical data set for Australia. Australian Meteorological and Oceanographic Journal 58, 233–248.
Keetch JJ, Byram GM (1968) A drought factor index for forest fire control. USDA Forest Service, Southeastern Forest Experiment Station, Research Paper SE-38. (Asheville, NC)
Long M (2006) A climatology of extreme fire weather days in Victoria. Australian Meteorological Magazine 55, 3–18.
Lucas C (2010) On developing an historical fire weather data set for Australia. Australian Meteorological and Oceanographic Journal 60, 1–13.
Lucas C, Hennessey K, Mills G, Bathols J (2007) Bushfire weather in southeast Australia: recent trends and projected climate change impacts. Consultancy Report prepared for the Climate Institute of Australia. Bushfire Cooperative Research Centre, Melbourne, Vic.
Luke RH, McArthur AG 1978 ‘Bushfires in Australia.’ (Australian Government Publishing Services: Canberra).
McArthur AG (1967) Fire behaviour in eucalypt forests. Leaflet No I07, Forest Research Institute, Forestry and Timber Bureau, Canberra.
McArthur AG, Cheney NP, Barber J (1982) The fires of 12 February 1977 in the Western District of Victoria. CSIRO Division of Forest Research and Country Fire Authority, Joint Report. (CSIRO: Melbourne)
Noble IR, Bary GAV, Gill AM (1980) McArthur’s fire-danger meters expressed as equations. Australian Journal of Ecology 5, 201–203.
| McArthur’s fire-danger meters expressed as equations.CrossRef |
Sharples JJ, McRae RHD, Wilkes SR (2012) Wind-terrain effects on the propagation of large wildfires in rugged terrain: fire channelling. International Journal of Wildland Fire 21, 282–296.
| Wind-terrain effects on the propagation of large wildfires in rugged terrain: fire channelling.CrossRef |
Teague B, McLeod R, Pascoe S (2010) Victorian Bushfires Royal Commission: final report. Parliament of Victoria, Melbourne.
Tolhurst KG, Shields BJ, Chong DM (2008) PHOENIX: development and application of a bushfire risk management tool. Australian Journal of Emergency Management 23, 47–54.
van Dijk AIM, Beck HE, Crosbie RS, de Jeu RAM, Liu YY, Podger GM, Timbal B, Viney NR (2013) The Millennium Drought in southeast Australia (2001–2009): natural and human causes and implications for ecosystems, economy, and society. Water Resources Research 49, 1040–1057.
| The Millennium Drought in southeast Australia (2001–2009): natural and human causes and implications for ecosystems, economy, and society.CrossRef |