Fire Weather - Fire Danger

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Meteorological data is fundamental to predicting fire danger and fire behaviour on timescales from seasonal to very short range. Seasonal factors affect fuel moistures and fuel availability while the variability on the very shortest time and space scales can cause marked variations in fire behaviour over very short distances or time intervals. Accurate fire weather forecasts can make all the difference to a community’s safety and to the overall success and wellbeing of firefighters and fire authorities in preparing for adverse fire weather.

This Bushfire CRC project aimed to improve the operational utility of fire weather forecasts and outlooks, by providing better knowledge and understanding of wind, temperature and humidity structures and distributions, on the very short term (one to 12 hours), short to medium term, and seasonal time scales.

The outcomes provide a range of forecast products tailored to the fire weather forecaster and based on hourly mesoscale numerical weather-prediction model output. These are available to forecasters nationally. These have included gridded weather and soil indexes for better fire weather forecasting;  a better understanding of wind changes and links to “blow up” days; a better understanding of atmosphere stability impacts on fire behaviour with the Continuous Haines index; and breakthrough work on the nature of dry lightning.

A significant piece of research on climate change impacts on fire weather in south-east Australia for the Climate Institute has been extensively used in strategic planning and risk assessments by industry and governments.

The Bushfire CRC’s annual Bushfire Seasonal Outlook developed from this project. Each year before the northern and southern Australian fire seasons the Bushfire CRC brought together fire managers from all jurisdictions with Bureau of Meteorology scientists for a workshop.

The Queensland Fire and Rescue Service contributes considerable resources and importance to the workshop.  Fergus Adrian, the manager of planning and research in Rural Operations said climate and fuel data gathered for the workshop is used in pre-season readiness activities including the timing of community awareness programs, briefing government, other fire and support agencies and contracting firefighting aircraft. “Importantly, on both a state and national level it provides an opportunity for fire agencies to appreciate resource demands such as intra and interstate assistance and to identify potential safety issues over the duration of the fire season.” he said.

In 2010, for the first time, a similar workshop was held in New Zealand. The final agreed seasonal outlooks are communicated in a Fire Note format and used by fire managers to harness resources for the upcoming seasons.

Related News

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Large areas of southern Australia, especially along the east and west coasts extending inland, face above normal fire potential for the 2013-2014 fire season, despite the extensive fires in some parts of the country over the last 12 months. View the full outlook in Fire Note 116.
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Large areas of northern Australia face the prospect of an above normal bushfire season this year, due to generally below average rainfall in the months leading up to the main fire season.
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The Northern Australia Seasonal Bushfire Assessment 2012 has been released as a Bushfire CRC Fire Note.
New Zealand bushfire forecast release for 2010-11
Across New Zealand, significant areas have above normal fire potential for the current season.
Seasonal bushfire outlook 2010
Across southern Australia, above-normal fire potential is expected over the remaining drought affected parts of the southeast, including much of Victoria, and west coast areas of South Australia, for summer 2010-11.
Columns of super-dry air that reach the earth’s surface from high altitudes could be responsible for extreme fire behaviour in some of the worst bushfires in Australia’s history.
Wind – the key factor for dangerous bushfire weather Wind speed plays a bigger role than temperature in creating dangerous conditions for bushfires, says Dr Andrew Dowdy a physicist from the Bureau of Meteorology.
Above normal fire potential is forecast across southern Australia over the coming summer months as a result of the lack of rainfall this year. The emergence of La Nina conditions at the start of the year delivered good rainfall in the northern parts of Australia but failed to deliver anything significant in the southern half.
Fire managers around Australia are increasingly arming themselves with a new research product as they provide advice to government and policy makers on the severity of upcoming bushfire seasons. The National Seasonal Bushfire Outlook Report, a new product of the Bushfire Cooperative Research Centre, has become an essential resource in the preparation for bushfire seasons.
Fire and land management agencies in south eastern Australia will be able to better plan for changes in the severity and timing of bushfire seasons following the release of research on possible climate change impacts.

Publications from this Project

Magazine Article

Conference Proceedings

T. Brown; G.A. Mills; T. Ghidey; H. Reinbold

Journal Article


K. Hennessey; C. Lucas; N. Nicholls; J. Bathols; R. Suppiah; J. Ricketts
C. Lucas; G.A. Mills; T. Brown

Conference Paper