Long Range Prediction for Fire Danger and Fire Severity
Predicting the influence of weather on fire ignition and spread is an operational requirement for national fire planning by the National Interagency Coordination Center (NICC), the US support center for wildland firefighting. NICC's Predictive Services produce national wildland fire outlook and assessment products at monthly to seasonal time scales, by considering standard Climate Prediction Center seasonal forecasts of temperature and precipitation along with other factors, including human judgment. The long-established practice of fire danger assessment in the US follows the procedures of the Forest Service National Fire Danger Rating System (NFDRS). Current fire danger is computed from weather variables observed over an automatic national network or National Weather Service 7-day forecast products. These fire danger maps are automatically updated daily, but they fall precipitously short of the long-range products required for Predictive Service
Recently, National Centers for Environmental Prediction (NCEP) introduced the Climate Forecast System (CFS), which starts from operational analyses running ocean-atmosphere coupled global models, and performs the dynamical climate prediction up to 7 months lead time. Working with NCEP scientists, we use the CFS to provide spatial and temporal boundary conditions for higher-resolution regional climate model prediction, essentially downscaled global short-term climate forecasts, over the US contiguous area. The fire danger indices of NFDRS are subsequently computed from the predicted weather variables. It was found that these indices can be skillfully predicted at weekly to seasonal time scales by the downscaled forecast system. The potential of this long-range forecast is not solely limited in fire danger prediction. We have also demonstrated that such dynamically forecasted NFDRS indices can be used in an empirical model to project the probability of fire occurrence and severity. We are developing such seasonal forecast product with forecasters at NICC to match the planning horizon of Predictive Services.
Forest Service Partners