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Reviewing the “Hottest” Fire Indices Worldwide
  • Janine A. Baijnath-Rodino,
  • Efi Foufoula-Georgiou,
  • Tirtha Banerjee
Janine A. Baijnath-Rodino
University of California-Irvine

Corresponding Author:jbaijnat@uci.edu

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Efi Foufoula-Georgiou
University of California -Irvine
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Tirtha Banerjee
University of California -Irvine
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Wildfire indices are used globally to quantify and communicate a wide range of fire characteristics, including fire danger and fire behaviour. Wildfire terminologies, definitions and variables used to compute fire indices vary broadly. This makes it difficult to compare them under a common framework for regional assessment and for future improvements under changing climate and land-use/land-cover conditions. This paper reviews 24 fire indices used worldwide and proposes a simple framework within which they can be classified based on constitutive inputs used for their computation. We differentiate between constitutive inputs that are raw or directly measurable variables such as fuel, weather and topography (referred to as Level 1 inputs) and calculated constitutive inputs such as fuel moisture (as a function of ecology and hydrometeorology); fire behaviour (as a function of spread, energy, and ignition); and dynamic meteorology. These six calculated constitutive inputs are referred to as Level 2 inputs. Based on this classification, our findings indicate that the Burning Index from the United States National Fire Danger Rating System (NFDRS) and the Fire Weather Index from the Canadian Forest Fire Danger Rating System (CFFDRS), used by many countries worldwide, utilize the most comprehensive set of Level 2 inputs. In addition, the Level 2 input that is most frequently used by all fire indices is fuel moisture as a function of hydrometeorology and the least integrated input is that of fire ignition. We further group the fire indices in three types: fire weather, fire behaviour, and fire danger indices, according to the open literature definition of their predictant outputs and examine the specific constitutive inputs used in their computation. Most fire indices are based on Level 2 inputs (which use Level 1 inputs) and are predominantly fire danger and fire behaviour indices. This is followed by fire indices that use a combination of both Level 1 and Level 2 inputs, separately and are mostly fire danger indices. Only a few fire indices are computed solely with raw Level 1 inputs and are mainly fire behaviour indices. Providing a comprehensive view of the existing wildfire indices’ utilization and computational structure is expected to be a helpful resource for wildfire researchers and operational experts worldwide. 2