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Decision Support for Wildland Fire Management

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Wildland fires are exceedingly complex phenomena. No human can integrate all the interacting factors in real-time. More sophisticated tools are needed that capture interactions between the fire and the local atmosphere. Research is yielding emerging wildfire decision support technologies that are primed to be transitioned to operations.

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Decision Support for Wildland Fire Management

  1. 1. Decision Support for Wildland Fire Management National Center for Atmospheric Research (NCAR) April 12, 2017 William P. Mahoney Interim Director, Research Applications Laboratory UNDERSTANDING WILDLAND FIRES: How new research can help firefighting protect lives and property
  2. 2. UNDERSTANDING WILDLAND FIRES: Problem to Address Wildland fires are exceedingly complex phenomena • Humans cannot integrate all the interacting factors in real-time • More sophisticated tools are needed that capture interactions between the fire and local atmosphere
  3. 3. UNDERSTANDING WILDLAND FIRES: Wildland Fire Complexity Wildland fires generate extreme fire behaviors such as: • Fire whirls and ‘firenadoes’ • Fire winds blowing 10 times stronger than ambient winds • Flames bursting ahead of the fire line • Fire blow-ups and firestorms • Pyrocumulus clouds • Fire splitting and merging These all result from dynamic interactions between a fire and its environment. Source: David McNew/Getty Images
  4. 4. UNDERSTANDING WILDLAND FIRES: Wildland Fire Weather – Policy Context June 2005 – WGA Resolution 05-04 for Improved coordination of existing wildland fire research efforts June 2007 – Office of Federal Coordinator (OFCM) Report: “National Wildland Fire Weather: A Summary of User Needs and Issues” May 2011 – OFCM Report: “Wildland Fire Weather: Multi-Agency Portfolio of Current and In-Development Capabilities to Support User Needs” Critical Focus Area: Modeling, Predictions and Data
  5. 5. UNDERSTANDING WILDLAND FIRES: Fire Behavior Prediction Data Needs • Local weather observations – Wind direction and speed – Wind gustiness – Temperature – Humidity – Precipitation amount and type • Local weather prediction data • Up to date fuel data and local fuel condition. • Vegetation state (green, dry, etc.) • High resolution topography information
  6. 6. UNDERSTANDING WILDLAND FIRES: Fire Behavior Prediction - Many Data Sources • Standard and Remote Automated Weather Station (RAWS) – (interagency) • NWS weather prediction models (GFS, NAM, HRRR) • DOI & USFS fuel datasets (LANDFIRE) • USGS digital elevation models • Multi-spectral: Landsat, VIIRS, MODIS (NASA) • GOES-R series lightning, IR (NOAA) • Aircraft and UAS visible and multi-spectral data Elko County, NV US Forest Service and US Dept. of Interior DEM – Sierra Nevada NASA - Landsat
  7. 7. UNDERSTANDING WILDLAND FIRES: Wildland Fire Research Contributions • Forest and rangeland ecology • Combustion physics & dynamics • Fuel data development • Numerical weather prediction • Land surface prediction • Remote and in situ sensing • Coupled modeling systems • Data assimilation • Computer science To understand fire behavior fundamentals… Source: Dr. Janice Coen, NCAR/MMM The “universal” fire shape and fire whirls evolve from fire-atmosphere interactions.
  8. 8. UNDERSTANDING WILDLAND FIRES: Wildland Fire Behavior Prediction Technology – Uses Source: Dr. Janice Coen, NCAR/MMM • Management and planning of individual fires • Resource planning for regional operations and asset management • Support for prescribed fire planning and execution • Forest and rangeland management • Evaluating smoke impacts, air quality, health advisory notification • Firefighter safety & training • Forensic evaluations of fire ignition sources • Fire aviation weather hazard guidance (wind shear, turbulence) Decision support for:
  9. 9. UNDERSTANDING WILDLAND FIRES: Bringing It All Together Taking advantage of these important data sources and integrating these research areas provides tremendous opportunities to advance wildland fire management. Yarnell Hill Fire Yarnell, AZ, 6/30/13 Source: Dr. Janice Coen, NCAR/MMM Wildfire simulation illustrating the dramatic effects of changing surface winds on fire behavior
  10. 10. UNDERSTANDING WILDLAND FIRES: Overcoming The Technology “Valley of Death” The “Valley if Death” is where good research goes to die because of the complexity of the transition process and lack of funding opportunities. Emerging wildfire decision support technologies are primed to be transitioned to operations. Operational Use Source: ieeecomputingsociety.org

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