Selecting the best performing fire weather indices for Austrian ecoregions

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Publication details

Arpaci, A, Eastaugh, CS & Vacik, H 2013, 'Selecting the best performing fire weather indices for Austrian ecoregions', Theoretical and Applied Climatology, vol. 114, no. 3-4, pp. 303-406.

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The interpretation and communication of fire danger warning levels based on fire weather index values are critical for fire management activities. A number of different indices have been developed for various environmental conditions, and many of them are currently applied in operational warning systems. To select an appropriate combination of such indices to work in different ecoregions in mountainous, hilly and flat terrain is challenging. This study analyses the performance of a total of 22 fire weather indices and two raw meteorological variables to predict wildfire occurrence for different ecological regions of Austria with respect to the different characteristics in climate and fire regimes. A median-based linear model was built based on percentile results on fire days and non-fire days to get quantifiable measures of index performance using slope and intercept of an index on fire days. We highlight the finding that one single index is not optimal for all Austrian regions in both summer and winter fire seasons. The summer season (May-November) shows that the Canadian build-up index, the Keetch Byram Drought Index and the mean daily temperature have the best performance; in the winter season (December-April), the M68dwd is the best performing index. It is shown that the index performance on fire days where larger fires appeared is better and that the uncertainties related to the location of the meteorological station can influence the overall results. A proposal for the selection of the best performing fire weather indices for each Austrian ecoregion is made.