Forest Disturbance Processes

An Investigation of Lower-Tropospheric Meteorological Processes that Impact the Evolution of Wildland Fires

[image:] Arttwork for the Eastern Area Modeling ConsortiumResearch Issue

An understanding of fire–atmosphere interactions is important for anticipating when weather conditions affect the evolution of a wildland fire. The physics of fire–atmosphere interactions work at multiple spatial and temporal scales. Relevant processes include small-scale energy exchanges between combustible fuels and the air in direct contact with the fuels; turbulent interactions between a fire and the overlying atmosphere; and meteorological exchanges of heat, humidity, and momentum in the vicinity of a fire.  Models and tools to analyze and predict fire–atmosphere interactions are still under development and have not been rigorously tested for a wide range of meteorological conditions and fire scenarios. 

Our Research

[image:] A time–height cross section of simulated relative humidity (RH) with time series of simulated mixed layer depth (MLD1), downdraft convective available potential energy (DCAPE) using MLD1, and surface RH.A Northern Research Station scientist, in collaboration with a research scientist at State University of New York at Albany, is

  • using meteorological and fire observations to document the state and variability of environmental conditions relevant to fire–atmosphere interactions.
  • applying existing and developing new meteorological analysis tools that diagnose the relevant processes on multiple scales.
  • refining analyses of fire–atmosphere interactions using model output from numerical simulations.
  • incorporating relevant meteorological theories to clarify the role of important meteorological variables and processes.

Expected Outcomes

Outcomes will include the identification of atmospheric processes associated with fire–atmosphere interactions and the development of diagnostics that can be applied to fire weather forecasting and fire management decision making. The results will apply to the development of new operational tools and to ongoing fire–atmosphere interaction research efforts.  Projects could produce new tools for incorporation into weather forecasts used by the operational fire community.  Ongoing research efforts on fire–atmosphere interaction will be enhanced by projects that rigorously document connections between observed fire characteristics and meteorological conditions. 

Research Results

Charney, J. J.; Keyser, D. 2014:  The sensitivity of fire-behavior and smoke-dispersion indices to the diagnosed mixed-layer depth.  Presented by J. J. Charney at the Thirty-First Conference on Agricultural and Forest Meteorology, Amer. Meteor. Soc., Portland, OR, on 5/13/14.

Charney, J.; Keyser, D. 2013:  The diagnosis of mixed-layer depth above an eastern U.S. wildfire using a mesoscale numerical weather prediction model.  Presented by J. Charney at the Fourth Fire Behavior and Fuels Conference, International Association of Wildland Fire, Raleigh, NC, on 2/20/13.

Charney, J. J.; Keyser, D. 2011:  The diagnosis of mixed-layer characteristics and their relationship to meteorological conditions above eastern U.S. wildland fires.  Presented by J. J. Charney at the Ninth Symposium on Fire and Forest Meteorology, Amer. Meteor. Soc., Palm Springs, CA, on 10/19/11.

Charney, J. J.; Keyser, D. 2010:  Mesoscale model simulation of the meteorological conditions during the 2 June 2002 Double Trouble State Park wildfire.  Int. J. Wildland Fire 19:427–448.

Charney, J. J.; Kiefer, M. T.; Keyser, D. 2009:  Assessment of the vertical exchange of heat, moisture, and momentum above a wildland fire using observations and mesoscale simulations.  Presented by J. J. Charney at the Thirteenth Conference on Mesoscale Processes, Amer. Meteor. Soc., Salt Lake City, UT, on 8/18/09.

Charney, J. J.; Keyser, D. 2009:  The impact of mesoscale PBL parameterizations on the evolution of mixed-layer processes important for fire weather.  Presented by J. J. Charney at the Eighth Symposium on Fire and Forest Meteorology, Amer. Meteor. Soc., Kalispell, MT, on 10/15/09.

Charney, J. J. 2009:  Use of NWP models to diagnose, understand and predict unusual fire weather events – Can we get more from what we already have?  Keynote presentation by J. J. Charney at the Centre for Australian Weather and Climate Research (CAWCR) Modelling Workshop 2009:  Modelling and Understanding High Impact Weather, CSIRO and the Australian Bureau of Meteorology, Melbourne, Australia, on 12/1/09.

Research Participants

  • Daniel Keyser, Department of Atmospheric and Environmental Sciences, University at Albany, State University of New York, Albany, NY
  • Joseph J. Charney, US Forest Service, Northern Research Station, Lansing, MI
Last Modified: September 8, 2014