Role of weather and fuel in stopping fire spread in tropical savannas

Owen Price, Rittick Borah, Stefan Maier

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


    Analysis of wildfire extinguishment can help to identify the relative contribution of weather and management to the prevention of fire spread. Here we examine the role of weather, previous fire scars and other fuel interruptions at stopping the spread of nine large (mean 90000 ha) late dry season fires in Arnhem Land, in the tropical savannas of northern Australia. Daily spread was mapped using Moderate-resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer (MODIS) satellite imagery with a resolution of 250m. We sampled points along the boundary of the fires and 1km inside the boundary and compared conditions between the two sets. Using a combination of binomial regression and regression tree analysis, we found that recent burn scars (from the same year) were very effective at stopping fires. Where there was any recent burning within 500m of a point, there was a 92% likelihood that it was a boundary. Interruptions such as roads, rivers and topography had small but significant effects. Vegetation type and vegetation greenness also had minor effects. Weather had a small effect via wind speed. This minor role of weather was reinforced by the fact that on most days the fires were both spreading and stopping at different parts of their perimeter. In these savannas, the weather in the late dry season is relatively invariant and is probably always conducive to some degree of fire spread. Here, interruptions to the fuel are critical to stopping fires. Nevertheless, for approximately half of boundary cases, the cause of stopping was not clear. This is probably due to the coarse scale of the analysis that does not reflect fine patterns of fuel arrangements. � 2013 Ecological Society of Australia.
    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)135-144
    Number of pages10
    JournalAustral Ecology
    Issue number2
    Early online date29 Jan 2013
    Publication statusPublished - Apr 2014


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