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Estimating australian forest fire danger under conditions of doubled carbon dioxide concentrations

Abstract

The most appropriate indices with which to quantify Australian bushfire danger are the McArthur fire danger meters. These meters use meteorological information to produce a fire danger index that is directly related to the chance of a fire starting - and to the severity of a fire once it has started. The Mark 5 forest-fire danger meter uses air temperature, relative humidity and wind speed, plus a drought factor that is calculated using daily rainfall and temperature information.

Three years of daily data generated from the CSIRO four-level general circulation model, and thirty years of daily data generated from the CSIRO nine-level model were used to estimate the daily McArthur forest fire danger index for simulations corresponding to present conditions, and to those corresponding to doubled atmospheric CO2. The performance of these models with respect to fire danger was tested by comparing the fire danger index for Sale (in the Eastern part of Victoria, South-eastern Australia) calculated from analysis of daily climatological data with the modelled annual cumulative forest fire danger index for the grid point that was representative of Sale. Data from both models for all Australian grid points were also examined. Both models predict an increase in fire danger over much of Australia for their doubled CO2 scenarios.

The results from the models confirm that annually averaged daily relative humidity is the single most important variable in the estimation of forest fire danger on an annual basis, yet the models tend to produce relative humidities that are slightly too low so that the fire danger is overestimated. A simple one-box model of evaporation indicates that the value of relative humidity to be expected under an altered climatic regime depends on the modelled relation between actual and potential evaporation, the present values of relative humidity and evaporation rate, as well as on the expected changes in wind speed.

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Beer, T., Williams, A. Estimating australian forest fire danger under conditions of doubled carbon dioxide concentrations. Climatic Change 29, 169–188 (1995). https://doi.org/10.1007/BF01094015

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Keywords

  • Relative Humidity
  • Wind Speed
  • Daily Data
  • Carbon Dioxide Concentration
  • Fire Danger