How Might a Scientist Investigate Annual Patterns of Fires?
ES0201  Conditions That May Affect Fire Potential

These maps display six types of information that appears to affect an area's potential for experiencing a wildfire.

  !   Click each map to see a larger view. Examine the color codes and patterns and try to develop a sense of which areas on each map would have the highest risk of fire.

USDA Forest Service, Wildland Fire Assessment System

Looking at the maps and exploring the data are useful, but simply getting a feel for which areas are at risk for burning isn't enough to manage firefighting resources efficiently. The scientific approach would be to quantify the risk for different regions, then compare the risks for all areas to predict which locations are most likely to experience a wildfire.

In this investigation, you'll rate the potential for wildfire at five sites in the western U.S. You'll use your data to test the following hypothesis: An area's potential for fire can be predicted by rating and averaging six physical conditions: Relative Greeness, Departure from Average Greeness, Experimental Live Moisture, Observed Temperature, Observed Relative Humidity, and Observed Wind Speed. To test the hypothesis, you'll compare your own ratings for the five sites to the National Interagency Fire Center's predictions.

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