New Zealand Journal of Forestry (2008) 53(3): 13–18
©New Zealand Institute of Forestry
Fire weather and climate of New Zealand
H. Grant Pearce 1 and Veronica Clifford 2
2 Scion, Rural Fire Research Group, Christchurch
Each year in New Zealand, seasonal weather conditions contribute to elevated fire dangers and therefore an increased risk of wildfires in most parts of the country. Weather is a key component of the fire environment, and an essential element of fire behaviour and fire danger. In particular, strong winds, high temperatures, low humidity and seasonal drought can combine to produce dangerous fire weather situations. To effectively manage this risk, an appreciation of the severity of fire weather and fire danger conditions is essential. A database has been developed of long-term daily fire weather and fire danger records from a network of more than 170 weather stations located across the country. The fire weather monitoring network comprises a mix of stations from the Meteorological Service of New Zealand (MetService), National Institute of Water and Atmospheric Research (NIWA) and Rural Fire Authorities. This database has formed the basis for a series of analyses comparing the severity of fire climates in different parts of the country, predicting the severity of fire seasons, and for projecting the likely effects of climate change on future fire dangers. This paper gives a brief overview of research undertaken to describe and predict New Zealandís fire climate.