UAF researchers visit D.C. to learn about predicting wildfire forecasts

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FAIRBANKS, Alaska - University of Alaska Fairbanks Researchers may soon be able to forecast the probability of wildfires more accurately using predictive tools. They presented a new method this week at the 'American Geophysical Union' in Washington, D.C. The presentation was aimed at predicting higher or lower fire activity during the summer.

A map of daily temperatures in areas across Alaska was suggested as a tool, as opposed to meteorological station data. Another project looks into climate analysis to find clues for forecasting wildfires. This would also create an updated fuels map showing which areas are more prone to fires. These are tools that are currently used in the lower 48, but not yet implemented in Alaska.

Tanya Clayton is the public information officer for the 'College of Natural Science and Mathematics' at UAF and she is currently visiting the AGU and spoke about the project.

"It's significant because these are not only things that impact fire managers and resources but it also effects communities. One of the things that they discussed was a fuel map. So if there was a little fire, but they know there was a lot of fuel available to burn, they might respond quicker to that. Or if there is a community in that area, they might want to respond quicker, whereas, if it was burning in an areas where there wasn't enough fuel, they know it's not as critical to infrastructure. So they know that they can maybe allocate resources in a more appropriate area," she said.

Based on records going back to the 1940's, four of the 10 largest fire seasons in Alaska have occurred in the past 14 years.