Flannigan, M. Stocks, B. Quintilio, D. Johnson, K. Marshall,G. and Coyle. M.
Wildfires are essential to ecosystem health and maintenance in the Northwest Territories (NT). To assist in this process, suppression is largely limited to the protection of life and property often resulting in large annual area burned statistics in this region.. However, during the summer of 2014, NWT experienced 385 wildfires that burned about 3.39 million hectares (33900 square kilometers). This was unprecedented in recent decades, and represented 74% of the total area burned in Canada in 2014.
This presentation explores the meteorological conditions that persisted throughout much of the 2014 fire season in NWT, with particular emphasis on upper-level ridging patterns and associated lightning fire ignitions. Fire danger conditions are analyzed through the codes and indices of the Canadian Forest fire Danger Rating System (CFFDRS), and compared with previous years. Fuel consumption estimates are combined with observed fire spread rates to calculate overall fire intensities.
Results show that the 2014 NWT fires exhibited exceptional fuel consumption due to extensive drought conditions that persisted throughout the fire season. Lowland areas that were normally a barrier to fire spread were burned over in 2014. Unprecedented spread rates were measured on many fires, resulting in overall fire intensity levels not observed in recent years. The end result was a drought-driven 2014 fire season that raises serious concerns about the frequency of such events as climate change impacts grow in future decades.