Agriculture Press Release

June 18, 1999

New Information Developed to Improve Wildfire Predictions

TALLAHASSEE Florida Agriculture Commissioner Bob Crawford today announced that new information developed by state forestry officials from data on rainfall across the state will improve predictions about the threat of wildfires at the local level.

"This new information, combined with data from our current observation sites around the state, will enable us to more accurately predict the threat of wildfires at the local level," Crawford said. "Consequently, firefighters will be better prepared to respond to wildfires."

A key component in determining the threat of wildfires is the Keetch-Byram Drought Index (KBDI), an objective measure of the balance between gains in soil moisture due to rainfall and losses due to evaporation. The index ranges from 0 for saturated soil to 800 for desert-like conditions from a rainfall deficit of 8 inches. The higher the index, the more fuel available to a fire due to dry conditions.

When wildfires raged across Florida last summer, the KBDI index ranged from 730 to 798 across much of the state.

The data on rainfall comes from a network of NexRad Doppler radars, operated by the   National Weather Service, which provide high-resolution precipitation information covering the entire state. Its equivalent to having 10,000 rain gauges spread across the state to supplement 106 weather stations currently utilized by the Division of Forestry. This gives forestry officials the most detailed overview of statewide drought conditions currently possible.

Utilizing the weather service data provided through a private company, the division has refined the drought index for wildfire and land management purposes. Florida is the only state to develop this program.

Maps showing the current average drought index by county, as well as the high-resolution drought index, are updated regularly on the Division of Forestrys web site at <http://flame.fl-dof.com>. In addition, a narrative report provides the daily minimum, maximum and average drought index for each county.


For more information:

Dr. Scott Goodrick
(850) 488-6111

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