Establishing relationships between drought indices and wildfire danger outputs: A test case for the California-Nevada drought early warning system

Daniel J. McEvoy, Mike Hobbins, Timothy J. Brown, Kristin VanderMolen, Tamara Wall, Justin L. Huntington, Mark Svoboda

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Abstract

Relationships between drought indices and fire danger outputs are examined to (1) incorporate fire risk information into the National Integrated Drought Information System California-Nevada Drought EarlyWarning System and (2) provide a baseline analysis for application of drought indices into a fire risk management framework. We analyzed four drought indices that incorporate precipitation and evaporative demand (E 0 ) and three fire indices that reflect fuel moisture and potential fire intensity. Seasonally averaged fire danger outputs were most strongly correlated to multi-scalar drought indices that use E 0 (the Evaporative Demand Drought Index (EDDI) and the Standardized Precipitation Evapotranspiration Index (SPEI)) at approximately annual time scales that reflect buildup of antecedent drought conditions. Results indicate that EDDI and SPEI can inform seasonal fire potential outlooks at the beginning of summer. An E 0 decomposition case study of conditions prior to the Tubbs Fire in Northern California indicate high E 0 (97th percentile) driven predominantly by low humidity signaled increased fire potential several days before the start of the fire. Initial use of EDDI by fire management groups during summer and fall 2018 highlights several value-added applications, including seasonal fire potential outlooks, funding fire severity level requests, and assessing set-up conditions prior to large, explosive fire cases.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number52
JournalClimate
Volume7
Issue number4
DOIs
StatePublished - Apr 1 2019

Keywords

  • California
  • Drought
  • Drought index
  • Evaporative demand
  • Fuel moisture
  • Nevada
  • Wildfire

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Atmospheric Science

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