1. PROJECT OBJECTS AND ACCOMPLISHMENTS
This study had two main objectives. First, to collect and integrate into a database relevant climate and fire variables for Nevada, generate a climatology for each of these variables, and establish and evaluate relationships between these variables. Second, determine relevant atmospheric parameters that can be integrated into operational fire weather prediction algorithms.
The project participants included 1) Dr. Timothy Brown, Principal Investigator,
Desert Research Institute,
University of Nevada; 2) Michael Huston, Fire Weather Forecaster, Reno Weather Service Forecast Office; 3) Beth Hall, Graduate Student, Atmospheric Sciences Program, University of Nevada; 4) Sandy Gregory, Fuel Specialist, Bureau of Land Management, State of Nevada Office.
The primary role of the Desert Research Institute (DRI) for this project was to provide all of the weather and climate data for analysis, along with the appropriate computing, statistical, and graphical tools. DRI developed the climatology products in close collaboration with the National Weather Service (NWS). At all stages of the climatology development, NWS advised on the usefulness and final format of each product. NWS provided expertise in the analysis of relationships between atmospheric parameters and wildland fire starts. The Bureau of Land Management (BLM) also played an important collaborative role, advising on product development to meet their needs in the areas of fire suppression, prescribed burns, and ecosystem management. Throughout the project, it was a good, three-way collaboration.
1) A climatology was developed for 131 Remote Automatic Weather Stations (RAWS) in and near Nevada for the period 1985-1995. Spatial fields of temperature, humidity, wind speed, and wind direction were developed by hour for each month. These maps were published in a Western Regional Climate Center (WRCC) report, and are now available on a newly developed Climate, Weather, and Fire web site. It is planned to present these results at the American Meteorological Society 2nd Symposium on Fire and Forest Meteorology (see Section 3).
2) A climatology was developed for counts of Automated Lightning Detection System (ALDS) lightning strike data for the period 1985- 1996. Latitude/longitude locations of lightning in and near Nevada were counted in a 0.5 degree uniform grid, and the average number of strikes by hour for each month was determined. These maps were published in a WRCC report, and placed on a newly developed Climate, Weather, and fire web site. It is planned to present these results at the American Meteorological Society (AMS) 2nd Symposium on Fire and Forest Meteorology (see Section 3).
3) Regional relationships have been established between upper level synoptic patterns occurring in the West and the seasonal number of fire starts. Daily fields of upper level temperature, humidity, wind, height, vertical velocity, divergence, and vorticity were averaged into monthly values within the primary Nevada fire season (July through September) for the period 1980- 1996 using National Center for Environmental Prediction (NCEP) re- analysis data. These results will be presented at the AMS 10th Conference on Applied Climatology, and a presentation is planned for the AMS 2nd Symposium on Fire and Forest Meteorology.
4) Upper air soundings for fire start and lightning years (based on the DRI lightning analysis) were analyzed by M. Huston to explore the relationship between sounding parameters (e.g., convective available potential energy) and the number of lightning strikes (e.g., lightning activity level). The statistical evaluation was assisted by DRI. No strong statistical correlations were immediately found, though further work is needed. It is hoped that clues gathered from the DRI re- analysis project would provide additional insight into lightning occurrence and relationships with fire starts.
2. SUMMARY OF UNIVERSITY/NWS EXCHANGE
1) April 1997: Seminar by Dr. Brown to Reno WSFO staff meeting, describing results and usage of RAWS and ALDS climatologies.
2) 10-11 July 1997; Training by Mr. Huston to forecasters from Elko and Las Vegas WSO's on Nevada fire weather forecasting; will include presentation by Dr. Brown on the climatology results obtained under the COMET project.
3) In addition to the Reno NWS receiving copies of both RAWS and ALDS climatology product reports (WRCC #97-02 and WRCC #97-04), the animations were also placed on Reno WSFO PC's for easy access by all forecasters. Additionally, copies of the reports were made available to both the Elko and Las Vegas offices.
3. PRESENTATIONS AND PUBLICATIONS
1) Presentation of RAWS and ALDS climatology results at the Weather Prediction
Workshop, Salt Lake City, September 1996, by graduate student Ms. Hall. Title of presentation same as project title.
2) October 1996; Graduate student presentation by Ms. Hall to the University of Nevada Atmospheric Science and Physics departments. Title of presentation same as project title.
3) April 1997: Presentation of RAWS and ALDS climatology results to the BLM semi-annual district managers meeting in Las Vegas.
Brown, T.J., B.L. Hall, M. Huston, and S. Gregory, 1997: RAWS, ALDS, and Nevada Wildland Fire Activity. Paper submitted to Amer. Meteor. Soc. 2nd Symposium on Fire and Forest Meteorology, Phoenix, AZ, January 1998.
Brown, T.J., and P.W. Mielke, Jr., 1997: Extremes and Trends in Western North America Wildland Fires. Paper submitted to Amer. Meteor. Soc. 10th Conference on Probability and Statistics in the Atmospheric Sciences, Phoenix, AZ, January 1998.
Brown, T.J., and Hall, B.L., 1997: Nevada ALDS Lightning Climatology. Desert Research Institute/Western Regional Climate Center Report #97-04, May 1997, 147 pp.
Brown, T.J., and Hall, B.L., 1997: Nevada RAWS Station Climatology. Desert Research Institute/Western Regional Climate Center Report #97-02, March 1997, 154 pp.
Gorelow, A., and Huston, M., 1997: On the Utility and Usefulness of the Haines Index as a Predictor of Large Fire Growth in the Western Great Basin. WR Tech. Attach. (in progress).
Hall, B.L., T.J. Brown, and M. Huston, 1997: NCEP Re-Analysis Synoptic Patterns and Nevada Wildland Fire Activity. Paper submitted to Amer. Meteor. Soc. 2nd Symposium on Fire and Forest Meteorology, Phoenix, AZ, January 1998.
Hall, B.L., T.J. Brown, and M. Huston, 1997: Using NCEP Re-Analysis Variables for Improving Outlooks and Forecasts of Wildland Fire Activity. To appear in Proceedings Amer. Meteor. Soc. 10th Conference on Applied Climatology, 20-23 October 1997.
Huston, M., 1997: Recent Trends Associated with Spot Forecast Requests in Nevada. WR Tech. Attach. (in progress).
A web site was recently developed to provide outreach of the products, results, and ideas developed under this study. A link is available from the WRCC home page; the direct link is: http://www.wrcc.sage.dri.edu/fire
4. SUMMARY OF BENEFITS AND PROBLEMS ENCOUNTERED
4.1 University's Perspective
This project has opened up new doors of opportunity and collaboration, particularly with the Bureau of Land Management. A research proposal ("Development of Regional Integrated Fire Weather Products") is pending within this agency, to further the ideas developed during this study. This project also formed the foundation for a University of Nevada Master's Thesis by Ms. Hall. Overall, the DRI participants feel that this project was highly beneficial to the Institute.
4.2 NWS Perspective
This project has aided operational fire weather forecasters in Nevada in a number of ways. The climatological work completed by Dr. Brown and Ms. Hall will provide a platform from which additional studies detailing specific fire and fire weather elements can be conducted. Such as the relationships established between upper level synoptic patterns and seasonal fire starts noted above. Additional work focusing on fire start events will undoubtedly provide new details that were not available to operational forecasters prior to this study. Also, the climatological work completed during the project was used to generate numerical regression equations that have been used daily to aid fire weather forecasters in producing temperature and relative humidity forecasts.
As noted above, this project has opened new doors for interagency collaborative work in the fire and weather sciences. This new collaborative effort will likely prove to be extremely beneficial to both the National Weather Service and land management agencies in predicting adverse weather conditions, developing new land management response procedures, and ultimately protecting lives and property while managing our natural resources.