4 Environmental Factors Contributing to the Emergence of Southern Great Plains Wildfire Outbreaks

Tuesday, 15 October 2013
Meeting Room 2 (Holiday Inn University Plaza)
T. Todd Lindley, NOAA/NWSFO, Amarillo, TX; and G. P. Murdoch, B. R. Smith, and K. M. Van Speybroeck
Manuscript (745.3 kB)

Handout (4.2 MB)

In order to appropriately assess significant fire potential, a combination of both long-term and short-term (dynamic) factors that influence a location's fire regime should be considered. In practice, however, most efforts in operational fire meteorology and predictive services are strongly weighted toward dynamic considerations such as vegetative responses to seasonal variability and the daily state of weather. Faced with the emergence of wind-driven grassland wildfire outbreaks as a preeminent natural hazard during the past decade, meteorologists and fire analysts across the southern Great Plains now strive to understand the long-term trends in climatic and vegetative fuel regimes as well as population and socio-economic conditions that have made the region vulnerable to violent fire episodes. This study will examine long-term changes to the southern Great Plains fire regime that have led to an increased environmental risk of wildfire outbreaks, including the occurrence of a multi-decadal drought coincident with increased population and changes in anthropogenic land usage. An example of how these factors have amplified the wildland fire danger on the southern Great Plains and contributed to the emergence of southern Great Plains wildfire outbreaks will be illustrated by events at Cross Plains, Texas, where 120 homes, churches and businesses were destroyed and two residents died during a regional fire outbreak on 27 December 2005.
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