Undergraduate Honors Thesis


Changing Fire Weather in Colorado: A Contrast Between Observational Data and Reanalysis Data Public Deposited

  • Recent wildfires in Colorado raise the question of whether rising global temperatures have caused

    an increase in fire weather in Colorado. We use two datasets to address the question: “How has the

    occurrence of fire weather changed in Colorado?” Using 21 years of observed weather conditions

    from a meteorological tower at the National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) and 83 years

    of ERA5 reanalysis data, we assess changing trends in Colorado fire weather. The observational

    data is limited in temporal extent, but it captures the exact real-world conditions at its location in

    complex terrain. The reanalysis data is available for an extended period of time and for the entire

    state, but its data is of relatively coarse spatial and temporal resolution and likely fails to capture

    extremes. To quantify fire risk, we calculate the hot-dry-windy index (HDWI) which relies on wind

    speed and vapor pressure deficit. No statistically significant trend in the Hot-Dry-Windy index

    (HDWI) appears in the observational dataset. However, according to the reanalysis data, strong

    increasing trends in HDWI values emerge across all of Colorado. This apparent conflict between

    observational and reanalysis data suggests that reanalysis data may not be representative and more

    long-term observational datasets are required to assess fire risk.

Date Awarded
  • 2023-10-10
Academic Affiliation
Committee Member
Granting Institution
Last Modified
  • 2023-11-04
Resource Type
Rights Statement


In Collection: