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Brian Potter

Brian Potter
Research Meteorologist
Threat Characterization and Management
400 N 34th St., Suite 201
Seattle, WA 98103-8600
United States
Phone
206-732-7828
Current Research
I am presently working on a variety of projects. I am examining how dry air and high winds several thousand feet above the ground can influence fire behavior. I have a project exploring extreme fire behavior, and just what that term means. I am working to understand how the atmosphere interacted with the major wildfires in Victoria, Australia, in February 2009. I am also working with several collaborators to understand the potential role of water vapor in fire plumes.
Past Research
My past research has included work on the energy involved in fires, including that of the atmosphere, and how that does or does not predict fire behavior. I have worked on a number of projects examining the Haines Index, a commonly used index of the potential contribution of the atmosphere to erratic fire behavior. I have also worked on questions related to the temperature, wind, and moisture environment under the forest canopy.
Research Interest
In general, my research interest is understanding the complex meteorology associated with wildland fires. That includes how weather conditions create severe wildfires and how these wildfires alter the winds and meteorology around them. Within that broad area, areas of particular interest to me include historical gaps in fire weather research; the many scales of atmospheric processes that influence fire behavior; and the sensitivity and uncertainty of fire behavior models and tools.
Why This Research Is Important
If I cannot understand how answering a question would protect lives or property, I don't study it. All of the questions I am exploring relate to a fire's behavior in the region where firefighters are active, to the space where aircraft may be helping fight the fire, and, to an extent, to the areas affected by the smoke produced by the fire. I try to focus on what can be predicted far enough in advance that the information can help protect firefighters, resources, and people's health and property.
Education
  • University of Washington, Ph.D., Atmospheric Sciences, 1994
  • Carleton College, B.A., Physics, 1986
Featured Publications
Other Publications
Research Highlights

The Hot-Dry-Windy Index improves fire weather forecasting

Year: 2018
A new tool helps fire managers anticipate when wildfires could become erratic or dangerous.
https://www.fs.usda.gov/research/about/people/bpotter