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Individual Highlight

Scientists Develop Wildfire Weather Climatology for the Northeastern United States

Monthly climatology of Northeastern United States wildfires for the Appalacian Mountains (region 1, black) and the coastal plain (region 2, grey). Forest ServiceSnapshot : Knowing where and why large wildfires have occurred in the past can help weather forecasters and fire managers predict future events with greater accuracy

Principal Investigators(s) :
Charney, Joseph J. (Jay) 
Research Station : Northern Research Station (NRS)
Year : 2012
Highlight ID : 31


Although large wildfires are less common in the Northeastern United States than in other parts of the country, they can still have substantial societal impacts due to high population density and the difficulty in accurately forecasting their occurrence. Forest Service scientists have developed a wildfire weather climatology that helps weather forecasters and fire managers assess where and why large wildfires have occurred in the past, so the onset of future wildfire events can be predicted with greater accuracy and confidence.

A combination of densely populated locales and the inherent challenge of accurately forecasting rare events accentuate the difficulties that fire managers and fire weather forecasters face when managing large wildfires in the Northeast. The climatology divides the Northeast into two subregions: (1) the higher terrain of the Appalachian Mountains and (2) the coastal plain. The climatology establishes that nearly two-thirds of all large wildfires in the Northeast occur in April and May, and that most fires in the region develop when the weather pattern is dominated by a high-pressure system. Analysis of the weather conditions during the events reveals the importance of dry air (low relative humidity) for many large wildfires in the region.

Forest Service Partners

External Partners

  • Stony Brook University, State University of New York

Program Areas