Year of Publication
Soil moisture conditions are represented in fire danger rating systems mainly through simple drought indices based on meteorological variables, even though better sources of soil moisture information are increasingly available. This review summarises a growing body of evidence indicating that greater use of in situ, remotely sensed, and modelled soil moisture information in fire danger rating systems could lead to better estimates of dynamic live and dead herbaceous fuel loads, more accurate live and dead fuel moisture predictions, earlier warning of wildfire danger, and better forecasts of wildfire occurrence and size. Potential uses of soil moisture information in existing wildfire danger rating systems include (1) as a supplement or replacement for drought indices, (2) for live and (3) dead fuel moisture modelling, (4) for estimating herbaceous fuel curing, and (5) for estimating fuel loads. We identify key remaining research questions and note the logistical challenge of convincing wildfire professionals of the importance of soil moisture compared with more familiar wildfire danger metrics. While obstacles remain, the path forward is clear. Soil moisture information can and should be used to improve fire danger rating systems and contribute to more effective fire management for the protection of communities and ecosystems worldwide.
Krueger ES, Levi MR, Achieng KO, Bolten JD, Carlson JD, Coops NC, Holden ZA, Magi BI, Rigden AJ, Ochsner TE. Using soil moisture information to better understand and predict wildfire danger: a review of recent developments and outstanding questions. International Journal of Wildland Fire. 2023 ;32(2).