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The outstanding synergy between drought, heatwaves and fuel on the2007 Southern Greece exceptional fire season

Gouveia C. M., Bistinas I., Liberato M.L.R., Bastos A., Koutsiasd N., Trigo R.
Agricultural and Forest Meteorology 218219 (2016) 135145

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Abstract

tThe fire season of 2007 was particularly devastating for Greece, achieving the new all-time record ofestimated burnt area (225,734 ha) since 1980. The season was remarkably severe in Peloponnese Penin-sula, in southern continental Greece, being considered the most extreme natural disaster in the recenthistory of Greece. Moreover during the hydrological year of 2007, Peloponnese was struck by a severewinter drought that corresponds to the second lowest annual accumulated value since 1951. However,the subsequent spring was very wet partially attenuating the effect of the previous drought. Additionally,the region was stricken by three heat heaves during summer, being the number of hot nights especiallynoticeable, surpassing more than 35 nights over the Southern Greece. Here we show that the central andNorthern sector of Peloponnese Peninsula become the most susceptible to wildfires due to the combinedeffect of the two extreme meteorological events, drought and heatwaves which was confirmed by thelocation of the main burnt areas of 2007 fire season. Additionally, the analysis showed that during theextreme days of fire activity in 2007, strong northerly advection of very hot and dry air over the region,favored fire occurrence.The study attempts to bring new light to the synergistic effect between fuel availability and weatherconditions that created extraordinary conditions for fire propagation. We focused on the largest burntareas and the respective NDVI behavior is assessed throughout the pre fire periods. We found that vege-tation dynamics are related to the extreme climatic events that occurred in these periods. Moreover, ourresults confirm that the higher fire incidence in areas with higher vegetation activity and density seemsto indicate that the large burnt areas of 2007 fires season in Peloponnese Peninsula appear to be moresensitive to fuel availability and vegetation density than to vegetation dryness.