Wildland Fire Behavior Modeling
- About Wildland Fire Behavior Modeling
Dr. Janice Coen (NCAR RAL/MMM) has spent several years performing research and developing advanced wildland fire behavior models with the goal of developing a real-time capability that can be used to plan and respond to fires. Wildland fire is a timely application that presents many substantial scientific, computational, and operational challenges. Although current field tools for diagnosing expected fire behavior are simple algorithms that can be run on calculators, researchers and fire managers alike envision a future when we might rely on complex simulations of the interactions of fire, weather, and fuel, driven by remote sensing data of fire location and land surface properties, as a component of planning, education, evacuation, and wildfire mitigation decision support systems.
Many of the challenges that must be faced include that fact that this problem is multi-faceted and interdisciplinary where physical processes span a vast range of scales. The research also addresses several other factors including estimating the consequences of uncertainty, visualization of complex processes, and the need to assimilate nontraditional data sources, often at disparate scales. Others complexities are peculiar to this problem, in that many of the fundamental physical processes are not understood, some have a stochastic nature and may never be deterministically modeled, nowcasting of convective precipitation (often a factor in fire behavior) may show skill only on the order of a few hours, the need to include geographic spatial data such as roads, streams, etc., due to the physical role it plays in fire behavior, and the difficulty of gathering data for verification and initialization in this dangerous environment. And finally, despite the need for intense computations, for use as an operational application, the fire behavior results must be generated faster than real time to make them useful for operations.
This research has resulted in two coupled weather - fire behavior models - the Coupled Atmosphere Wildland Fire Environment (CAWFE) model, which has been used to model a number of large wildfires, and a physics package in the Weather Research and Forecast (WRF) Model called WRF-Fire. The WRF-Fire package has been released with WRF to the fire and meteorological communities since April 2010 (v3.2). Ongoing improvements are being developed.