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Impact of More Frequent Observations on the Understanding of Tasmanian Fire Danger

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  • 1 Bureau of Meteorology, and Institute for Marine and Antarctic Studies, University of Tasmania, Hobart, Tasmania, and Bushfire Co-operative Research Centre, East Melbourne, Victoria, Australia
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Abstract

Half-hourly airport weather observations have been used to construct high-temporal-resolution datasets of McArthur Mark V forest fire danger index (FFDI) values for three locations in Tasmania, Australia, enabling a more complete understanding of the range and diurnal variability of fire weather. Such an understanding is important for fire management and planning to account for the possibility of weather-related fire flare ups—in particular, early in a day and during rapidly changing situations. In addition, climate studies have hitherto generally been able to access only daily or at best 3-hourly weather data to generate fire-weather index values. Comparison of FFDI values calculated from frequent (subhourly) observations with those derived from 3-hourly synoptic observations suggests that large numbers of significant fire-weather events are missed, even by a synoptic observation schedule, and, in particular, by observations made at 1500 LT only, suggesting that many climate studies may underestimate the frequencies of occurrence of fire-weather events. At Hobart, in southeastern Tasmania, only one-half of diurnal FFDI peaks over a critical warning level occur at 1500 LT, with the remainder occurring across a broad range of times. The study reinforces a perception of pronounced differences in the character of fire weather across Tasmania, with differences in diurnal patterns of variability evident between locations, in addition to well-known differences in the ranges of peak values observed.

Corresponding author address: Paul Fox-Hughes, Bureau of Meteorology, 111 Macquaries St., Hobart, TAS 7000, Australia. E-mail: p.fox-hughes@bom.gov.au

Abstract

Half-hourly airport weather observations have been used to construct high-temporal-resolution datasets of McArthur Mark V forest fire danger index (FFDI) values for three locations in Tasmania, Australia, enabling a more complete understanding of the range and diurnal variability of fire weather. Such an understanding is important for fire management and planning to account for the possibility of weather-related fire flare ups—in particular, early in a day and during rapidly changing situations. In addition, climate studies have hitherto generally been able to access only daily or at best 3-hourly weather data to generate fire-weather index values. Comparison of FFDI values calculated from frequent (subhourly) observations with those derived from 3-hourly synoptic observations suggests that large numbers of significant fire-weather events are missed, even by a synoptic observation schedule, and, in particular, by observations made at 1500 LT only, suggesting that many climate studies may underestimate the frequencies of occurrence of fire-weather events. At Hobart, in southeastern Tasmania, only one-half of diurnal FFDI peaks over a critical warning level occur at 1500 LT, with the remainder occurring across a broad range of times. The study reinforces a perception of pronounced differences in the character of fire weather across Tasmania, with differences in diurnal patterns of variability evident between locations, in addition to well-known differences in the ranges of peak values observed.

Corresponding author address: Paul Fox-Hughes, Bureau of Meteorology, 111 Macquaries St., Hobart, TAS 7000, Australia. E-mail: p.fox-hughes@bom.gov.au
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