— NOAA Research (@NOAAResearch) May 17, 2017
Researchers this week announced a new tool that can take some of the guesswork and resource limitations out of the equation when it comes to estimating wildfire risk.
Investigators with the National Centers for Environmental Information and the NASA DEVELOP National Program collaborated with a series of groups to create the tool that automatically processes satellite and weather station information. The Fire Risk Estimation tool — FIRE Tool for short — takes into consideration temperature, precipitation, relative humidity and wind observations and produces a single measurement of fire potential.
The new tool will be able to process data in almost real-time, determine when indicator thresholds are met or exceeded, and weigh how much each indicator would influence risk. From there, fire managers will be better able to more intently mobilize resources to high-risk areas — a tactic that until now was severely limited due to gaps in available information and computation.
“To create the FIRE tool, the team began with a list of indicators used to assess wildfire risk and the thresholds for each that would indicate higher risk,” researchers wrote in an online piece posted to NCEI. “Provided by fire managers in South Dakota, these initial indicators and thresholds were based on meteorological conditions that accompanied several large, complex wildfires in the past decade.”
Once the overall risk potential is calculated, information is plotted on a color-coded map spanning five categories — low to high.
From the NCEI report:
“This gives fire managers an overall view of risk in different locations, helping them quickly decide when and where to allocate their resources.”
The FIRE Tool was initially built for the Great Plains. However, experts say it can be modified to landscapes and geographical regions across the country.