Identifying and attributing regime shifts in Australian fire climates

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Jones, Roger ORCID: 0000-0001-6970-2797 and Ricketts, James ORCID: 0000-0003-0608-5618 (2023) Identifying and attributing regime shifts in Australian fire climates. Climate, 11 (6). ISSN 2225-1154


This paper introduces and analyzes fire climate regimes, steady-state conditions that govern the behavior of fire weather. A simple model representing fire climate was constructed by regressing high-quality regional climate averages against the station-averaged annual Forest Fire Danger Index (FFDI) for Victoria, Australia. Four FFD indices for fire years 1957–2021 were produced for 10 regions. Regions with even coverage of station-averaged total annual FFDI (ΣFFDI) from 1971–2016 exceeded Nash–Sutcliffe efficiencies of 0.84, validating its widespread application. Data were analyzed for shifts in mean, revealing regime shifts that occurred between 1996 and 2003 in the southern states and 2012–2013 in Queensland. ΣFFDI shifted up by ~25% in SE Australia to 8% in the west; by approximately one-third in the SE to 7% in the west for days above high fire danger; by approximately half in the SE to 11% in the west for days above very high, with a greater increase in Tasmania; and by approximately three-quarters in the SE to 9% in the west for days above severe FFDI. Attribution of the causes identified regime shifts in the fire season maximum temperature and a 3 p.m. relative humidity, with changing drought factor and rainfall patterns shaping the results. The 1:10 fire season between Regimes 1 and 2 saw a three to seven times increase with an average of five. For the 1:20 fire season, there was an increase of 2 to 14 times with an average of 8. Similar timing between shifts in the Australian FFDI and the global fire season length suggests that these changes may be global in extent. A trend analysis will substantially underestimate these changes in risk.

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Item type Article
DOI 10.3390/cli11060121
Official URL
Subjects Current > FOR (2020) Classification > 3007 Forestry sciences
Current > Division/Research > Institute for Sustainable Industries and Liveable Cities
Keywords fire climate regimes, Australia, bushfire, fire climate, fire risk, climate change
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