Coupled Weather-Fire Modeling

Decision Support For Managing Wildland Fires

To safely manage wildland fires, decision makers need reliable, accurate, frequently updated, easily accessible, geo-referenced information about current and predicted weather and fire behavior. With such information, decision makers can better determine how a fire is behaving now and might behave in the future. Reliable information about the potential for a fire to spread rapidly and behave erratically is essential for saving life and property.

Currently, operational systems that predict how wildland fires move and behave are not coupled to numerical weather prediction (NWP) models. These systems often rely on wind fields that lack critical details in space and time. Those details are needed to accurately predict fire spread when winds change rapidly due to storm outflows, density currents, frontal passages, complex terrain, and other factors. Furthermore, large wildfires generate their own strong updrafts and intense local winds, which drive flames quickly across the landscape. Large wildfires also generate vast, thick smoke plumes that can affect radiative transfer, while lofted particles and moisture can form pyrocumulus clouds. All of these phenomena can be predicted only by coupled models.

That is why scientists and engineers in RAL are extending the functionality of the Weather Research and Forecasting (WRF) NWP model based on the Coupled Atmosphere Wildland Fire Environment (CAWFE) model. New developments focus on improving the fire-spread model, investigating alternative fuel models and fuel moisture data, allowing users to fine-tune fuel moisture in simulations, and predicting where spot-fires are likely to occur away from the main blaze . These developments are being included in the community WRF-Fire model.  The modeling system is being extensively evaluated and improved based on observed fires in Colorado and other parts of the United States.

Search through all publications in NCAR's OpenSky Library.

Jimenez, P. A., D. Muñoz-Esparza, and B. Kosović, 2018: A high resolution coupled fire-atmosphere forecasting system to minimize the impacts of wildland fires: Applications to the Chimney Tops II wildland event. Atmosphere, 9, 197.

Muñoz-Esparza, D., B. Kosović, P. A. Jiménez, and J. L. Coen, 2018: An accurate fire-spread algorithm in the Weather Research and Forecasting model using the level-set method. Journal of Advances in Modeling Earth Systems, 10, 908-926. doi: 10.1002/2017MS001108.

Coupled Weather-Fire Modeling