International Journal of Wildland Fire International Journal of Wildland Fire Society
Journal of the International Association of Wildland Fire

Climatological and statistical characteristics of the Haines Index for North America

Julie A. Winkler A E , Brian E. Potter B , Dwight F. Wilhelm A , Ryan P. Shadbolt A , Krerk Piromsopa C and Xindi Bian D

A Department of Geography, Michigan State University, East Lansing, Michigan, USA 48824.

B USDA Forest Service, 400 N. 34th Street, Suite 201, Seattle, Washington, USA 98103.

C Department of Computer Science and Engineering, Michigan State University, East Lansing, Michigan, USA 48824.

D USDA Forest Service, 1407 South Harrison Road, Suite 220, East Lansing, Michigan, USA 48823.

E Corresponding author. Email:

International Journal of Wildland Fire 16(2) 139-152
Published: 30 April 2007


The Haines Index is an operational tool for evaluating the potential contribution of dry, unstable air to the development of large or erratic plume-dominated wildfires. The index has three variants related to surface elevation, and is calculated from temperature and humidity measurements at atmospheric pressure levels. To effectively use the Haines Index, fire forecasters and managers must be aware of the climatological and statistical characteristics of the index for their location. However, a detailed, long-term, and spatially extensive analysis of the index does not currently exist. To meet this need, a 40-year (1961–2000) climatology of the Haines Index was developed for North America. The climatology is based on gridded (2.5° latitude × 2.5° longitude) temperature and humidity fields from the NCEP/NCAR reanalysis. The climatology illustrates the large spatial variability in the Haines Index both within and between regions using the different index variants. These spatial variations point to the limitations of the index and must be taken into account when using the Haines Index operationally.


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