Eighth Symposium on Fire and Forest Meteorology


A spatial and predictive National Fire Danger Rating System for New Jersey

John L. Hom, USDA Forest Service, Newtown Square, PA; and W. E. Heilman, X. Bian, K. Mccullough, K. L. Clark, N. Skowronski, J. Cole, S. Van Tuyl, M. Gallagher, A. Kornbluh, and J. J. Charney

The New Jersey Forest Service has a critical need for refining the National Fire Danger Rating System (NFDRS) so that it is specific for the Pine Barrens. The NJ Pine Barrens are considered among the most volatile fire cycle vegetation in the East. Much of the uplands are dominated by a highly flammable forest composed of Pitch Pine (Pinus rigida), dense scrub oaks (Quercus marlandica, Q. ilicifolia) and Ericaceous shrubs. The current NFDRS does not meet the needs of the wildfire managers in this region. Analysis of long-term (1930-present) weather records and wildfire history data indicates that wildfire occurrence in this region is largely decoupled from NFDRS indices (e.g. Buildup Index, Ketch Byram Drought Index), commonly used by New Jersey fire managers.

A framework based on fire weather monitoring, mesoscale modeling, and fuel mapping is described for producing a spatial and predictive National Fire Danger Rating System (NFDRS) for New Jersey and the Eastern coastal plain. Supported by the National Fire Plan, we have constructed and maintain 8 fire weather towers with complete standard meteorological and fire weather instrumentation in the Pinelands of New Jersey. These data are available to the New Jersey Forest Fire Service (NJFFS) and other local fire managers in near real time via the internet through the NJ State Climatologist's web page (NJWxNet). Prediction of fire weather indices, using MM5 mesoscale modeling, is available on an operational basis for the Northeastern U.S. region at 4 km2 from the Eastern Area Modeling Consortium (EAMC). High resolution, 1 km2 MM5 predictions for New Jersey, has been developed for this NFDRS research study. In response to fire managers concerns for catastrophic fires, we have also developed new live fuel moisture indices based on the forest canopy energy budget and above canopy infra-red thermometers which can be accessed in near real time.

Spatial maps of NFDRS fuel models and the 13 Anderson and 40 Scott and Burgan fire behavior fuel models were produced at 30m resolution by the Eastern LANDFIRE Prototype. LIDAR measurements of stand height and canopy density and intensive forest inventories are used to obtain accurate estimates of fuel loads for approximately 500,000 acres of the Pineland, and to map fuel structure to refine the fuel models.

Preliminary spatial and predictive fire danger indices using the Canadian Forest Fire Weather Index (CFFWI) has incorporated the MM5 model of predictive fire weather for a preliminary spatial, predictive fire danger rating system to demonstrate the potential of this prototype FDRS

A prototype for NJ Pine Barrens will embed the NFDRS into MM5, to produce 48 hour forecasts using multiple fuel models, at relevant intervals per day to better represent rapidly changing climate conditions in the NJ Pine Barrens. Fuel models in the NFDRS, are upscaled to 1 km, using land manager's input. Additional new fire danger indices such as turbulent kinetic energy (TKE) and near real time live fuel moisture indices will be incorporated, making this spatial and predictive NFDRS more relevant to the New Jersey Pine Barrens.

Improved fire danger indices and fire weather predictions are necessary to provide reliable information for allocation of scarce resources and manpower. This framework for producing a spatial and predictive NFDRS for New Jersey can be applied to the Eastern coastal plain as well as other regions in the US.

Poster Session 1, Formal Poster Reviewing with Icebreaker Reception
Tuesday, 13 October 2009, 5:30 PM-7:30 PM, Big Sky Ballroom

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