GFMC: Forest Fires in the United States, 3 March 2001
Forest Fires in the United States
1 March 2001
Operational Significant Event Imagery (OSEI)
The following significant events were identified by Satellite Analysis Branch meteorologists and reviewed by the OSEI support team:
NESDIS/OSEI NOAA-14 POES AVHRR LAC satellite image, 28 February 2001.
Heat signatures (red) and smoke (light blue haze) are visible from fires burning in Georgia, South Carolina and Florida.
Cloud cover obstructs the visibility of additional heat signatures.
Most likely the heat signatures represent prescribed fires (see remarks below).
Remarks on Prescribed Burning
Fire is an important natural tool for ecosystem management. It can reduce dense vegetation improving wildlife habitat and lessening the potential for large, wildfire disasters. Land managers are directed to prepare a prescribed fire/burn plan for every area of public land that can burn. Some areas require total suppression while others will benefit from a wildland fire. Those areas that will benefit from a fire can be treated by a prescribed fire.
Especially, for the moment, in the southern and southeastern regions of the United States prescribed fire activities will be carried out in the following weeks and months. In this case, fire signals on satellite images can be traced back to this kind of land management activities.
In the Prescribed Fire Position Paper of the Forest Protection Bureau by the Division of Forestry in Florida, prescribed fire activity is described as a land management application that is essential to the practice of forestry, management of wildlife, preservation of endangered plant and animal species, improvement of range conditions and reduction of wildfire damage in the wildland/urban interface areas. While there is general public and landowner concern with increased smoke, reduced air quality, and liability; the general public and landowners benefit significantly from the reduction of devastating wildfire, improved wildlife habitat and forage, preservation of endangered and threatened plant and animal species, and improved management of forest resources. The prospect of severe reductions in the utilization of this management tool is of major concern to Florida’s natural resource managers and conservationists due to the subsequent loss of derived public and private benefits. They suggest the need for legislative attention.
Another report on nation-wide prescribed burning in the U.S.A. was published in International Forest Fire News No.19 (September 1998).
A set of photographic documents on prescribed burning techniques and objectives in the Southeast can be visited in our photo archive.
The Florida Division of Forestry gives the following summary of the recent Fire Weather & Fire Danger Information:
“Combining our current rainfall deficits with normal, or below normal rainfall amounts could lead to another potentially severe fire season in 2001. The strong likelihood for a freeze will only adds to this potential. At this point central Florida appears to be the area most likely to experience a severe fire season. This area is currently the hardest hit by drought with little prospect for improvement over the next few months. Despite the end of La Niña, fire potential is likely to remain high for the next several months until a prolonged period of normal to above normal rainfall develops to help ease the drought conditions.”
For further information see: Wildfire Season Forecast of the Florida Division of Forestry
For further information you may also see to the U.S. Drought Monitor.
The Wildland Fire Assessment System (WFAS) is a contribution of “The Fire Behavior Research Work Unit”, Missoula (Montana USA). The broad area component of the Wildland Fire Assessment System (WFAS) generates maps of selected fire weather and fire danger components.
Fire Danger (Potential) is a normalized adjective rating class across different fuel models and station locations. It is based on information provided by local station managers about the primary fuel model, fire danger index selected to reflect staffing level, and climatological class breakpoints. Low danger (class 1) is green and extreme potential (class 5) is red.
Fire danger maps for the United States for 28 February 2001 (observation time) and 1 March 2001 (forecast)
Dead fuel moisture responds solely to ambient environmental conditions and is critical in determining fire potential. Dead fuel moistures are classed by timelag. A fuel’s timelag is proportional to its diameter and is loosely defined as the time it takes a fuel particle to reach 2/3’s of its way to equilibrium with its local environment. Dead fuels in NFDRS have four timelag classes:
1-hr: Fine flashy fuels, less than 1/4″ (< 0.63 cm) diameter. Responds quickly to weather changes. Computed from observation time temperature, humidity and cloudiness.
10-hr: 1/4 to 1″ (0.63 to 2.54 cm) diameters. Computed from observation time temperature, humidty, and cloudiness, or may be a standard set of “10-Hr Fuel Sticks” that are weighed as part of the fire weather observation.
100-hr: 1 to 3″ (2.54 to 7.62 cm) diameter. Computed from 24 hour average boundary condition composed of day length, hours of rain, and daily temperature/humidity ranges.
1000-hr: 3 to 6″ (7.62 to 15.24 cm) diameter. Computed from a 7-day average boundary condition composed of day length, hours of rain, and daily temperature/humidity ranges.
10-HR Fuel Moisture
100-HR Fuel Moisture
1000-HR Fuel Moisture
Fuel moisture maps for conterminous US, 28 February 2001
The Keetch-Byram Drought Index (KBDI) is a soil/duff drought index that ranges from 0 (no drought) to 800 (extreme drought) and is based on a soil capacity of 8 inches of water. Factors in the index are maximum daily temperature, daily precipitation, antecedent precipitation, and annual precipitation. KBDI = 0 – 200: Soil moisture and large class fuel moistures are high and do not contribute much to fire intensity. Typical of spring dormant season following winter precipitation. KBDI = 200 – 400: Typical of late spring, early growing season. Lower litter and duff layers are drying and beginning to contribute to fire intensity. KBDI = 400 – 600: Typical of late summer, early fall. Lower litter and duff layers actively contribute to fire intensity and will burn actively. KBDI = 600 – 800: Often associated with more severe drought with increased wildfire occurrence. Intense, deep burning fires with significant downwind spotting can be expected. Live fuels can also be expected to burn actively at these levels.
For further information on the Keetch-Byram Drought Index (KBDI) by Florida’s Division of Forestry / Forest Protection Bureau please refer to Keetch-Byram Drought Index Revisited: Prescribed Fire Applications.
Keetch-Byram Drought Index Maps for conterminous US, 28 February 2001
National Weather Service
Long-range, 30-day weather forecasts are predicting above-normal temperatures for the southern tier of states from southern California to Florida and throughout the Midwest (see 30 and 90-day forecast maps).
30 and 90-day temperature and precipitation forecast maps (March and March to May 2001)
(Source: National Weather Service)