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Changes to Fire Weather

 

Following the late 2018 Bushfires and Heatwave event, the Bureau of Meteorology (BoM) issued Special Climate Statement (SCS) 67, titled ‘An extreme heatwave on the tropical Queensland coast’. QFES worked collaboratively to contribute information relating to the bushfire event and reviewed an analysis of the fire weather during the event.

The SCS publication initiated the co-authoring of study between the BoM Climate Services Division and QFES to examine observed fire weather trends, and climate change projections (where practicable) for Queensland. This is to ensure the continued expansion of the evidence base that informs strategic and operational decision-making and planning.

The study report titled ‘Changes to Fire Weather in Queensland’ describes the long-term changes in fire-weather conditions for Queensland across the period 1950-2018, including an assessment of Forest Fire Danger Index (FFDI) and other relevant climatic variables (rainfall, temperature).

The report provides a whole of State perspective and summaries for the nine climate sub-regions within Queensland. Analyses has also been conducted across the 1989-2018 period to provide additional spatial analysis for the most recent 30-year period and allow for the examination of temporal patterns, i.e. recent versus longer term fire weather trends.

A selection of key findings found in the executive summary include:

    1. Annually averaged maximum temperatures have risen across the period 1950-2018 for most of the State;

    2. Annual rainfall has risen over most of the far west and far north of the State, but has declined across the remainder of the state particularly on the east coast;

    3. Annual accumulated FFDI, highest daily FFDI and incidence of days greater than or equal to FFDI 25 has risen across most of the state, particularly in the South;

    4. Days greater than or equal to FFDI 25 are occurring earlier in Spring and in the case of the South West on occasion in late Winter. Thus, fire seasons are starting earlier and in some cases finishing later;

    5. While fire weather characteristics have not been uniform for the period 1950-2018, changes have been more rapid in recent decades (1989-2018); and

    6. An associated study examining FFDI trends using climate change projections indicate that the trends observed are likely to continue.

Due to the diversity of Queensland’s climate regions, state-wide trends must be treated with caution when using them to describe the trends within any one climate region, e.g. for the State as whole the in-active period of the year for fire weather appears to be narrowing, but this is representative of the active period starting earlier in some regions and ending later in others.

Changes to Fire Weather in Queensland (PDF 8MB)

A report from the Australian Bureau of Meteorology, prepared for Queensland Fire and Emergency Services.