Canadian Forest Service Publications

Summer moisture and wildlife risks across Canada. 2009. Girardin, M.-P.; Wotton, B.M. Journal of applied meteorology and climatology 48: 517-533.

Year: 2009

Issued by: Laurentian Forestry Centre

Catalog ID: 29517

Language: English

Availability: PDF (request by e-mail)

Available from the Journal's Web site.
DOI: 10.1175/2008JAMC1996.1

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Mark record


The Fire Weather Index System has been in use across Canada for the past 30 years in the daily operations of fire management agencies. As part of this system, the Drought Code (DC) was developed to act as a daily index of water stored in the soil.Amajor obstacle to the completion of climate risk analyses on the DC is that lengthy series of daily temperature and precipitation are not available for large portions of the circumboreal forest. Here the authors present a methodological modification to the daily DC to allow its approximation using monthly data. This new Monthly Drought Code (MDC) still retains its ability to capture moisture trends in deep organic layers. On the basis of high-resolution temperature and precipitation data, an analysis of summer moisture availability across Canada over 190122002 is presented. The driest periods on record were from the 1920s to the early 1960s, with the driest years being 1955, 1958, and 1961. The wettest period was from the mid-1960s to the 1980s. For the century-long period, drying was statistically significant in northern Canada. Locations south of the Hudson Bay, in the eastern Maritimes, and in western Canada recorded a trend toward decreasing dryness. When analyzed over 1951-2002, trends could hardly be distinguished from the (multi) decadal variability. Annual values of a spatial average of all July MDC grid cells showed an excellent fit against fire statistics: 63% of the variance in the Canada-wide annual area burned from 1959 to 1999 was explained by summer moisture availability.