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The Influence of Forest Gaps on Fire-Atmosphere Interactions

Photo of Example of prescribed fire adjacent to a forest gap in the New Jersey Pine Barrens. Warren E. Heilman, U.S. Department of Agriculture Forest Service.Example of prescribed fire adjacent to a forest gap in the New Jersey Pine Barrens. Warren E. Heilman, U.S. Department of Agriculture Forest Service.Snapshot : Model simulations have been used to examine how gaps in forest stands can affect the response of the atmosphere to low-intensity wildland fires occurring in those stands. The study provides insight into potential smoke dispersion and fire behavior during low-intensity prescribed fires in forested environments.

Principal Investigators(s) :
Heilman, Warren E.Charney, Joseph J. (Jay)
Bian, Xindi (Randy) 
Research Location : Lansing, Mich.
Research Station : Northern Research Station (NRS)
Year : 2016
Highlight ID : 1053

Summary

Low-intensity prescribed fires used for fuels management often occur in highly heterogeneous forest stands. This heterogeneity, typically characterized by gaps in forest canopy coverage, can affect ambient and fire-induced atmospheric circulations within and near the fire environment, which in turn can affect fire spread and the dispersal of smoke. To improve our understanding of potential atmospheric responses to low-intensity fires in forested environments typical of prescribed burn programs, Forest Service researchers worked with colleagues at Michigan State University to numerically simulate local fire-induced circulations and atmospheric temperature variations that can occur during low-intensity fires within and near forest gaps. Using the canopy version of the Advanced Regional Prediction System (ARPS-CANOPY), a numerical model developed for simulating the atmospheric environment within forest canopies, the researchers were able to show that gaps in forest canopies can have a substantial impact on the vertical and horizontal transport of heat and smoke away from low-intensity surface fires occurring within and near the gaps. The research results highlight the importance of accounting for forest canopy effects on fire-atmosphere interactions in operational fire behavior and smoke dispersion predictive tools.

Forest Service Partners

External Partners

 
  • Michigan State University

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