Changes in Australian fire weather between 1973 and 2010

Authors

  • Hamish Clarke,

    Corresponding author
    1. Climate Change Science Section, NSW Office of Environment and Heritage, Sydney, Australia
    2. Climate Change Research Centre, University of NSW, Sydney, Australia
    • Climate Change Science Section, NSW Office of Environment and Heritage, PO Box 3720, Parramatta, NSW 2124, Australia.
    Search for more papers by this author
  • Christopher Lucas,

    1. Centre for Australian Weather and Climate Research, a partnership between the Bureau of Meteorology and CSIRO, Melbourne, Australia
    Search for more papers by this author
  • Peter Smith

    1. Climate Change Science Section, NSW Office of Environment and Heritage, Sydney, Australia
    Search for more papers by this author

Abstract

A data set of observed fire weather in Australia from 1973–2010 is analysed for trends using the McArthur Forest Fire Danger Index (FFDI). Annual cumulative FFDI, which integrates daily fire weather across the year, increased significantly at 16 of 38 stations. Annual 90th percentile FFDI increased significantly at 24 stations over the same period. None of the stations examined recorded a significant decrease in FFDI. There is an overall bias in the number of significant increases towards the southeast of the continent, while the largest trends occur in the interior of the continent and the smallest occur near the coast. The largest increases in seasonal FFDI occurred during spring and autumn, although with different spatial patterns, while summer recorded the fewest significant trends. These trends suggest increased fire weather conditions at many locations across Australia, due to both increased magnitude of FFDI and a lengthened fire season. Although these trends are consistent with projected impacts of climate change on FFDI, this study cannot separate the influence of climate change, if any, with that of natural variability. Copyright © 2012 Royal Meteorological Society

Ancillary