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Akila Sampath
,
Uma S. Bhatt
,
Peter A. Bieniek
,
Robert Ziel
,
Alison York
,
Heidi Strader
,
Sharon Alden
,
Richard Thoman
,
Brian Brettschneider
,
Eugene Petrescu
,
Peitao Peng
, and
Sarah Mitchell

Abstract

In this study, seasonal forecasts from the National Centers for Environmental Prediction (NCEP) Climate Forecast System, version 2 (CFSv2), are compared with station observations to assess their usefulness in producing accurate buildup index (BUI) forecasts for the fire season in Interior Alaska. These comparisons indicate that the CFSv2 June–July–August (JJA) climatology (1994–2017) produces negatively biased BUI forecasts because of negative temperature and positive precipitation biases. With quantile mapping (QM) correction, the temperature and precipitation forecasts better match the observations. The long-term JJA mean BUI improves from 12 to 42 when computed using the QM-corrected forecasts. Further postprocessing of the QM-corrected BUI forecasts using the quartile classification method shows anomalously high values for the 2004 fire season, which was the worst on record in terms of the area burned by wildfires. These results suggest that the QM-corrected CFSv2 forecasts can be used to predict extreme fire events. An assessment of the classified BUI ensemble members at the subseasonal scale shows that persistently occurring BUI forecasts exceeding 150 in the cumulative drought season can be used as an indicator that extreme fire events will occur during the upcoming season. This study demonstrates the ability of QM-corrected CFSv2 forecasts to predict the potential fire season in advance. This information could, therefore, assist fire managers in resource allocation and disaster response preparedness.

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