Why is it that Spring in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park is the peak season for forest fires both man made and lightning caused when it rains so much in the spring and it is so wet there in the Spring so how can forest fires possibly form and even be the peak season for fires there?

  • $\begingroup$ Possibly because all of the park may not be wet at the same time. $\endgroup$ – Fred Oct 31 '19 at 10:41
  • $\begingroup$ Do they have a dry winter? If so, it could be like California: the fires are at the beginning of a wetter season due to lots of dry/dead vegetation + stronger winds & lightening. $\endgroup$ – winwaed Oct 31 '19 at 13:26
  • $\begingroup$ No they don’t have a dry winter. It rains there a lot in the spring and summer a little more so in the spring than the summer but winters aren’t dry even though it rains less there than in the spring and summer. Fall is the driest season there with the least amount of rain. But even then it still rains a good amount in the Fall there $\endgroup$ – Ryan Amalfitano Nov 8 '19 at 14:19

With fires, the forest cover and climate generally control what are the worse seasons for fires, add to this the human factor, accidental and prescribed burning. For purposely ignited fires spring and fall are the major seasons, spring because the ground is often still damp but the fine fuels on the surface are dry enough to burn, making the fire easier to control, fall because the fuel is generally dry but the weather is getting colder and wetter with winter approaching making the fire easier to extinguish and reducing the time required to monitor the fire.

In the case of the Smoky mountains, it appears that the weather is more damp, humid, in the winter and summer, additionally, summer has more moderating green moist vegetation that is not present in the spring or fall. The following excerpt from the Great Smokey Mountains Fire management plan directly mentions the spring and fall seasons (See page 16). Great Smoke Mountains Fire Management Plan

The annual fire weather cycle is more a function of seasonality and temperature than precipitation. Warm temperatures and exposed fuels during the dormant seasons of spring and fall condition the fuels for easy ignition and spread. In contrast, during the winter, cold temperatures prolong the wetting effect of the precipitation, and in the summer, heavy sheltering of fuels by tree foliage (coupled with high humidity) makes for poor ignition conditions under normal circumstances. Exceptions to the norm have occurred. Atypical dry spells in any season can result in more fires and/or unusually higher fire intensities. In 1987, and again in 2007, extreme summer-time droughts made the normally fire-resistant hardwood forest susceptible to fire. Numerous lightning- and human-caused fires in and near the Park burned thousands of acres during summer months in those years.

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