Changes in the Seasonality of Fire Activity and Fire Weather in Portugal: Is the Wildfire Season Really Longer?

Pedro Silva, Miguel Carmo, João Rio, Ilda Novo

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The length of the fire season has not garnered much attention within the broad field of meteorological research on fire regime change. Fire weather research on the Iberian Peninsula is no exception in this case; there is no solid understanding on fire season lengthening in Portugal, although recent decades do suggest ongoing transitions. Based on a complete record of fire occurrence and burned area between 1980 and 2018, we first searched for consistent trends in the monthly distribution of fire activity. To determine day-scale changes, an exceedance date method based on annual cumulative burned area was developed. Results show an early onset of fire activity in a range of 23–50 days and no significant extension into autumn, suggesting that existing projections of the lengthening of the fire season in Portugal over the present century have been already achieved. Fire weather results show a trend in the cumulative Daily Severity Rating (DSR), with the last two decades (2000–2018) displaying an early build-up of meteorological fire danger in late spring and early summer. The detailed spatio-temporal analysis based on the daily Fire Weather Index (FWI) shows that June stands out with the largest increase (year-round) in days per month with an FWI above 38.3, the threshold above which fire conditions make suppression uncertain. This aggravated fire weather is likely sustaining early fire activity, thus contributing to a longer critical fire season.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)74-86
Number of pages13
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 2023


  • Wildfire seasonality;
  • Extended burning season
  • Pre-season fire weather
  • Daily Severity Rating
  • Climate change
  • Western Iberia


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