Oral Presentation AMOS Annual Meeting and International Conference on Tropical Meteorology and Oceanography

Goldilocks and global warming: climate change effects on the weather envelope for conducting prescribed burning (#242)

Hamish Clarke 1 , Bruce Tran 2 3 , Matthias M Boer 2 , Owen Price 1 , Belinda Kenny 4 , Ross Bradstock 1
  1. University of Wollongong, WOLLONGONG, NSW, Australia
  2. Hawkesbury Institute for the Environment, Western Sydney University, Richmond, NSW, Australia
  3. Faculty of Science, University of Sydney, Sydney, NSW, Australia
  4. Rural Fire Service, Sydney Olympic Park, NSW, Australia

Despite the importance of prescribed burning in contemporary fire management, there is little understanding of how climate change will influence the weather conditions under which it is deployed. We provide quantitative estimates of potential changes in the number of prescribed burning days in coastal NSW, a fire-prone area dominated by dry sclerophyll forests. Burning days are calculated from an objectively designed regional climate model ensemble using three definitions of suitable weather conditions based on: a literature search (Literature), actual weather observed during recorded prescribed burns (Observed) and operational guidelines (Operational). Interestingly, evidence for a decrease in prescribed burning days under projected future climates is weak. There was a complex pattern of changes, including the potential for substantial and widespread increases in burning days during the current burning seasons of autumn (March-May) and spring (August -October). This study highlights the need for a better understanding of the weather conditions required for safe and effective prescribed burning. Our analysis provides practitioners with quantitative information to assess their exposure to a range of potential changes in the frequency, seasonality and variability of prescribed burning weather conditions.