Skip to main content
U.S. flag

An official website of the United States government

Characteristics of lightning and wildland fire ignition in the Pacific Northwest.


Sue A. Ferguson



Publication type:

Scientific Journal (JRNL)

Primary Station(s):

Pacific Northwest Research Station


Journal of Applied Meteorology. 38: 1565-1575


Lightning is the primary cause of fire in the forested regions of the Pacific Northwest, especially when it occurs without significant precipitation at the surface. Using thunderstorm occurrence and precipitation observations for the period 1948–77, along with automated lightning strike data for the period 1986–96, it was possible to classify convective days as either "dry" or "wet" for several stations in the Pacific Northwest. Based on the classification, a discriminant analysis was performed on coincident upper-air sounding data from Spokane, Washington. It was found that a discriminant rule using the dewpoint depression at 85 kPa and the temperature difference between 85 and 50 kPa was able to classify correctly between 56% and 80% of the convective days as dry or wet. Also, composite maps of upper-air data showed distinctly different synoptic patterns among dry days, wet days, and all days. These findings potentially can be used by resource managers to gain a greater understanding of the atmospheric conditions that are conducive to lightning-induced fires in the Pacific Northwest.


Rorig, Miriam L.; Ferguson, Sue A. 1999. Characteristics of lightning and wildland fire ignition in the Pacific Northwest. Journal of Applied Meteorology. 38: 1565-1575

Publication Notes

  • We recommend that you also print this page and attach it to the printout of the article, to retain the full citation information.
  • This article was written and prepared by U.S. Government employees on official time, and is therefore in the public domain.