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Individual Highlight

Unraveling the Mysteries of Fire-induced Weather

Photo of Period of high fire-induced atmospheric turbulence observed during a prescribed fire conducted in the New Jersey Pine Barrens on 20 March 2011. USDA Forest ServicePeriod of high fire-induced atmospheric turbulence observed during a prescribed fire conducted in the New Jersey Pine Barrens on 20 March 2011. USDA Forest ServiceSnapshot : Observational data and model simulations have been used by Forest Service scientists and their partners to examine turbulent circulations in the vicinity of wildland fires in forested and complex terrain environments. The research results improves scientists’ understanding of how fire-induced weather can affect fire behavior and smoke dispersion.

Principal Investigators(s) :
Heilman, Warren E. 
Research Station : Northern Research Station (NRS)
Year : 2015
Highlight ID : 858

Summary

Accurately predicting fire behavior and smoke dispersion from wildland fires in forested and complex terrain environments is difficult, in part, because fires generate their own weather, which in turn can feed back on fires and affect their behavior, and also transport smoke. The weather generated by fires is inherently turbulent, with gusty and highly variable winds characterizing the areas surrounding and downwind of fires. Current operational fire behavior and smoke dispersion prediction systems do not adequately account for fire-, canopy-, and terrain-induced atmospheric turbulence, and this can lead to errors in fire spread and smoke transport predictions. To improve scientists’ understanding of how fires generate wind gusts that can further affect their spread and the movement of fire emissions, Forest Service researchers collaborated with scientists at Michigan State University and San Jose State University to measure, analyze, and simulate fire-induced turbulent circulations during actual and idealized wildland fire events in forested and complex terrain environments. Results from this research provided new insight into the evolution of atmospheric turbulence regimes during wildland fires and how atmospheric turbulence effects might be parameterized in the next generation fire behavior and smoke transport prediction systems.

Forest Service Partners

External Partners

 
  • Michigan State University
  • San Jose State University

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