21 Jul 2023
 | 21 Jul 2023

The Fire Weather Index Improved for Boreal Peatlands Using Hydrological Modeling and Satellite-Based L-band Microwave Observations

Jonas Mortelmans, Anne Felsberg, Gabriëlle De Lannoy, Sander Veraverbeke, Robert Field, Niels Andela, and Michel Bechtold

Abstract. The Canadian Fire Weather Index (FWI) system, even though originally developed and calibrated for an upland jack pine forest, is used globally to estimate fire danger for any fire environment. However, for some environments, such as peatlands, the applicability of the FWI in its current form, is often questioned. In this study, we replaced the original moisture codes of the FWI with hydrological estimates resulting from the assimilation of satellite-based L-band passive microwave observations into a peatland-specific land surface model. In a conservative approach that maintains the integrity of the original FWI structure, the distributions of the hydrological estimates were first matched to those of the corresponding original moisture codes before replacement. The resulting adapted FWI, hereafter called PEAT-FWI, was evaluated using fire occurrences over boreal peatlands from 2010 through 2018. Adapting the FWI with model- and satellite-based hydrological information was found to be beneficial to estimate fire danger, especially when replacing the deeper moisture codes of the FWI. For late-season fires, further adaptations of the fine fuel moisture code show even more improvement due to the fact that late-season fires are more hydrologically driven. The proposed PEAT-FWI should enable improved monitoring of fire risk in boreal peatlands.

Jonas Mortelmans et al.

Status: final response (author comments only)

Comment types: AC – author | RC – referee | CC – community | EC – editor | CEC – chief editor | : Report abuse
  • RC1: 'Comment on egusphere-2023-1451', Sophie Wilkinson, 16 Aug 2023
  • RC2: 'Comment on egusphere-2023-1451', Francesca Di Giuseppe, 15 Sep 2023

Jonas Mortelmans et al.

Jonas Mortelmans et al.


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Short summary
With global warming increasing the frequency and intensity of wildfires in the boreal region, accurate risk assessments are becoming more crucial than ever before. The Canadian Fire Weather Index (FWI) is a renowned system, yet its effectiveness in peatlands, where hydrology plays a key role, is limited. By incorporating groundwater data from numerical models and satellite observations, our modified FWI improves the accuracy of fire danger predictions, especially over summer.