Impact of vertical atmospheric structure on an atypical fire in a mountain valley
Ozaki, M and Harris, RMB and Love, PT and Aryal, J and Fox-Hughes, P and Williamson, GJ, Impact of vertical atmospheric structure on an atypical fire in a mountain valley, Fire, 5, (4) Article 104. ISSN 2571-6255 (2022) [Refereed Article]
Wildfires are not only a natural part of many ecosystems, but they can also have disastrous consequences for humans, including in Australia. Rugged terrain adds to the difficulty of predicting fire behavior and fire spread, as fires often propagate contrary to expectations. Even though fire models generally incorporate weather, fuels, and topography, which are important factors affecting fire behavior, they usually only consider the surface wind; however, the more elevated winds should also be accounted for, in addition to surface winds, when predicting fire spread in rugged terrain because valley winds are often dynamically altered by the interaction of a layered atmosphere and the topography. Here, fire spread in rugged terrain was examined in a case study of the Riveaux Road Fire, which was ignited by multiple lightning strikes in January 2019 in southern Tasmania, Australia and burnt approximately 637.19 km2. Firstly, the number of conducive wind structures, which are defined as the combination of wind and temperature layers likely to result in enhanced surface wind, were counted by examining the vertical wind structure of the atmosphere, and the potential for above-surface winds to affect fire propagation was identified. Then, the multiple fire propagations were simulated using a new fire simulator (Prototype 2) motivated by the draft specification of the forthcoming new fire danger rating system, the Australian Fire Danger Rating System (AFDRS). Simulations were performed with one experiment group utilizing wind fields that included upper-air interactions, and two control groups that utilized downscaled wind from a model that only incorporated surface winds, to identify the impact of upper air interactions. Consequently, a detailed analysis showed that more conducive structures were commonly observed in the rugged terrain than in the other topography. In addition, the simulation of the experiment group performed better in predicting fire spread than those of the control groups in rugged terrain. In contrast, the control groups based on the downscaled surface wind model performed well in less rugged terrain. These results suggest that not only surface winds but also the higher altitude winds above the surface are required to be considered, especially in rugged terrain.
fire, wind, weather, forests, rugged terrain, upper air interaction, AFDRS