Real-time Identification of Lightning Initiated Wildfires
Christopher Schultz, NASA Marshall Space Flight Center, Huntsville, AL
Jonathan Case, Ensco. Inc./NASA SPoRT
Christopher Hain, NASA Marshall Space Flight Center
Kristopher White, National Weather Service Huntsville/NASA SPoRT
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Abstract
Wildfires initiated by lightning account for 56% of all acreage burned by fire. However, many of the fire started from these events are not identified until several days after the lightning event, when conditions dry up and the fire breaks out. For this study, over 500 lightning-initiated wildfire are analyzed in order to explore lightning flash characteristics, underlying land surface conditions, and local meteorology at the time of occurrence.These observations will be compared with lightning flashes from the same days for events that do not ignite wildfires, in order to extract important land surface and lightning parameters which exist in operational models and observational datasets that can be gleaned for rapid identification of fire starts from lightning.

Preexisting land surface and meteorological conditions are represented by analyzing output from the Short-term Prediction Research and Transition Centerís Land Information System (SPoRT-LIS) and the Wildland Fire Assessment System 100 hour fuel moisture inputs.Model variables examined include:0-10 cm volumetric and relative soil moisture content, 0-200 cm relative soil moisture content, green vegetation fraction, and surface soil temperature. Lightning data from the National Lightning Detection Network (NLDN) are analyzed to determine what kinds of CG strikes are likely to cause wildfires in terms of polarity and current. Geostationary Lightning Mapper data are also utilized to determine how GLM can complement the detection of wildfire initiation. Applying the Wilcoxon-Mann-Whitney rank sum test, statistical analyses are performed on all collected model output, lightning data, and surface observations to demonstrate differences between wildfire starting lightning flashes and other lightning flashes which do not initiate fires.