Forecasting Change: Weather variables influence fire behavior

Fire days rising at alarming rate

ORLANDO, Fla. – This week in Forecasting Change we are talking about fire weather conditions.

This week, we have been loading up on the rain showers. Some areas have picked up more than 5 inches of rain in the last few days alone. But our totals are still running behind the climate norm for the year.

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In Orlando, we are currently running a deficit of more than ¾ of a inch for the month, and we are down more than 5 ½ inches since Jan. 1. With about six to eight weeks left in the wet season, it would appear we will hit the start of the dry season in October with a big deficit.

When that happens, our attention turns to fire conditions quickly. The graph below shows weather variables that influence fire behavior.

Weather variables that influence fire behavior. (Climate Central)

As much as we battle fire threats in our dry season, it’s the western half of the U.S. that is really having a change in fire weather. This graphic shows how many areas have an alarming increase in fire weather days since 1973.

This shows the percent change in fire weather days over the last 47 years. (Climate Central)

This increase is being driven by climate change. In a nutshell, human-caused change is making for dry and hot conditions that lead to longer droughts, creating tender box conditions and more large burns.

In the last four decades, the total of thousands of acres burned has been on a steady rising incline.

Shows rise in heat leads to higher fire risk (Climate Central)

California has been one of the hot spots that has suffered the most. Look at the increase since 1980.

California has suffered the most in fire related damages. (Climate Central)

When you hear the term climate change or global warming, try to remember it won’t all just be warming afternoons or melting ice caps. There will be what is called “Global Weirdness.” Some of that “weirdness” will be the threat of more wildfire.

About the Author:

Tom Sorrells is News 6's Emmy award winning chief meteorologist. He pinpoints storms across Central Florida to keep residents safe from dangerous weather conditions.