On Walkabout to See What's Out There

Western Wildfires

By: BriarCraft, 9:15 PM GMT on September 17, 2012

A couple of things have happened recently to focus my thoughts on wildfires. First, Ylee featured a webcam from Sisters, Oregon, on his blog and within a few days of posting it, the mountain view was obscured by smoke. Then, last week the weather service issued a Fire Weather Warning for parts of Washington and Oregon, including a "high Haines" index. During that period, when the prevailing high level westerly wind reversed, the sun could not be seen through the layer of smoke aloft.

Prior to last week, I had never heard of a Haines index. Thanks to a link posted by RenoSoHill on Ylee's blog, I discovered InciWeb. WatchinTheSky remarked that it seemed odd for the Evergreen State, home of the Emerald City (Seattle), to be under a Fire Weather Warning. And in my weekly email from Earth Observatory, the first photo was of -- you guessed it -- Washington wildfires. All this, at a time when I was trying to think up a new blog topic, so Wildfires it is.

Earth Observatory image of Central Washington wildfires


The Top 10 wildfires at InciWeb at the time I created this entry. There were 339 entries in the listing at the time and it changes frequently.


What is the Haines Index?
In a 1988 paper, Mr. Donald Haines of the USDA Forest Service’s North Central Research Station proposed what he called the “Lower Atmosphere Stability Index.” Renamed the Haines Index in his honor since then, it has a value of 2, 3, 4, 5, or 6 and is a simple measure of how strongly atmospheric conditions near the earth’s surface might contribute to an existing fire becoming a dangerous, erratic fire with a strong, well defined updraft. It reflects atmospheric stability and dryness for a layer of the atmosphere roughly 1 to 5 km above the surface.

To learn more about the Haines Index and view climatology maps, go to http://info.airfire.org/haines/whatishaines.html

The wildfire pictures below, as well as the chart above, are just a sampling of what you can find at InciWeb.org

Updated: 12:53 AM GMT on October 02, 2012

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