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Fire Modelling and Forecasting System (FireMAFS)

Fire disturbs large areas worldwide in all climatic zones. Fire releases greenhouse gases from the land to the atmosphere, and is a globally significant source of smoke. Forecasting of fire risk is undertaken in many fire-prone environments to aid dry season planning. Appropriate consideration of fire is also required within dynamic vegetation models that aim to examine vegetation-climate interactions in the past, present and future. Current methods of mapping fire risk, susceptabilty or danger use empirical fire danger indices, which are calibrated using past weather conditions and fire events. They provide little information on processes, are only appropriate to deal with current climate, land use and land cover change, and are limited in their ability to be tested and constrained by satellite data or other observational data (e.g. active fire detection, burned area, carbon dioxide release etc). The objective of the FireMAFS project is to resolve these limitations by developing a robust method to forecast fire activity (fire danger indices, ignition probabilities, burnt area, fire intensity etc) with a process-based model of fire-vegetation interactions. It will be tested, improved, and constrained using state-of-the-art satellite data, and will be run based on seasonal weather forecasts several months into the future. Specific aims are to: (i) develop a method for using satellite and other observational data on vegetation condition, fire activity and fire effects to improve a model of fire-vegetation interactions; (ii) run the improved model with seasonal weather forecasts to predict space-time variability of fire occurrence and impacts, and (iii) to evaluate the usefulness of the model system for seasonal fire prediction at 1 to 6 months lead time and for prognostic studies run under future projected climate and land use and land cover change scenarios. The project is supported by the Natural Environment Research Council under the QUEST Programme. The research team comprises Kings College and University College London, the Universities of Leicester, Bristol and Reading and the Centre for Ecology and Hydrology and is led by Prof. Martin Wooster (Kings College London).

Professor Heiko Balzter, Department of Geography

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