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Dew It! Which Weather Measurements are Related to the Occurrence of Wildland Fire?

This article is from Issue Wildland Fire - Vol. 4 No. 1.

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Although scientists know that many weeks of low rainfall increase the chances of wildfires, they do not know which daily weather conditions are the best for determining the danger of fire. If scientists can determine which daily weather conditions are the best for identifying the risk of wildfires, they can more easily determine which days wildfires might occur. The scientist in this study wanted to determine which daily weather conditions are associated with large or dangerous wildfires.

Welcome to the Wildland Fire edition

Note to Educators

The Story of Smokey Bear

Education Standards Correlations

Meet the scientists that contributed to this article:

"Science Topics" covered in this article:
  • Earth Science
  • People and Science
  • Technology and Science

"Environmental Topics" covered in this article:
  • Vegetation Management (Educators)
  • Vegetation Protection (Fire, Insects, Endangered Species) (Educators)

Regions covered in this article:
  • Alaska
  • Intermountain
  • Northern
  • Pacific Northwest
  • Pacific Southwest
  • Rocky Mountain
  • Southern
  • Southwestern

"Thinking About Science Themes" covered in this article:
The world is a complicated place. When you look closely at things in nature, you will find that many things are connected in one way or another. Scientists study this complexity in nature, but they also search for simpler ways to understand what they observe. One of the ways that they try to simplify their research is by studying things piece by piece. Instead of observing everything all at once, they observe and measure separate things. Then, they examine how the separate things are related. In this study, the scientist wanted to know which daily weather conditions are most related to forest wildfires. To answer his question, he divided the daily weather conditions into separate measurements. The daily weather is not really a lot of separate conditions. Instead, it is a related set of conditions. However, by separating the weather into different kinds of measurements, the scientist made the problem easier to study and to understand.
Specific "Thinking About Science" Themes:
  • Characteristics of Scientists

"Thinking About Environmental Themes" covered in this article:
Wildfires can be a threat to the health and safety of people and animals (figure 1). Wildfires might be started by mistake, as when people are not careful with campfires or with matches. Wildfires may also be started by lightning or by other natural means during dry weather. Most people know that weeks of dry weather will increase the danger of a wildfire. Whether a wildfire spreads may also depend on the weather that occurs each day. If the weather on some days is more likely to help a wildfire to spread, people should be extra careful with matches or with fire during those days. The scientist in this study wanted to identify the most important daily weather conditions that were associated with a dangerous or a large wildfire. To identify these conditions, the scientist measured things like air temperature, relative humidity, and wind speed.
Specific "Thinking About the Environment" Themes:
  • Effect of natural disaster on living things

NSE Standards covered in this article:
  • Abilities necessary to do scientific inquiry (A)
  • Natural hazards (F)
  • Nature of science (G)
  • Properties and changes of properties in matter (B)
  • Risks and benefits (F)
  • Science and technology in society (F)
  • Science as a human endeavor (G)
  • Structure of the earth system (D)
  • Understandings about scientific inquiry (A)

Science Benchmarks covered in this article:
  • Habits of Mind: Critical-Response Skills
  • Historic Perspectives: Understanding Fire
  • The Nature of Science: Scientific Inquiry
  • The Nature of Science: The Scientific Enterprise
  • The Physical Setting: Processes that Shape the Earth
  • The Physical Setting: The Earth