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Fire weather in the wet-dry tropics of the World Heritage Kakadu National Park, Australia.

Gill, A.M. (1), Moore, P.H.R. (1) and Williams, R.J.(2)

(1) Centre for Plant Biodiversity Research, G.P.O. Box 1600, Canberra, A.C.T. 2601 Australia.

(2) CSIRO Division of Wildlife and Ecology, PMB, Winnellie, N.T. 0820 Australia.


Seasonal changes of weather and fuels in the wet-dry tropics are dramatic; fires follow suit. In this paper, we examine quantitatively rainfall, evaporation, wind, temperature and humidity information, and indices derived from them, for Kapalga Research Station and nearby Jabiru in World Heritage Kakadu National Park, Northern Australia. At Kapalga, the average annual rainfall of about 1200mm mostly falls during a 6 month wet season. Grasses, green in the wet, begin to desiccate during the early dry season. Perennial grasses cure more slowly than the annuals, and grasses in drainages cure later than those on ridges. Fire weather is usually most severe in September-October (late dry season) and least severe in January-February (late wet season). As the dry season progresses to its peak, daily wind patterns change, daily maximum temperatures increase to an average of 36C, dew points drop to a minimum, and soil moisture is severely depleted. In the early dry season (cf. later), fires have a greater tendency to go out at night compared with later perhaps because winds then are calmer, fuels are more discontinuous, and relights from burning logs are less likely to occur. Fire weather in the north of Australia appears less severe than that in the southeast of the continent where socially disastrous fires occur periodically.


Australia, fire weather, Kakadu National Park, wet-dry tropics, world heritage.

Published in: Australian Journal of Ecology Vol. 21: 302-308 (1996).

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