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An examination of the sensitivity of numerically simulated wildfires to low-level atmospheric stability and moisture, and the consequences for the Haines IndexAuthor(s): Mary Ann Jenkins
Source: International Journal of Wildland Fire 11:213-232
Publication Series: Scientific Journal (JRNL)
Station: North Central Research Station
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DescriptionThe Haines Index, an operational fire-weather index introduced in 1988 and based on the observed stability and moisture content of the near-surface atmosphere, has been a useful indicator of the potential for high-risk fires in low wind conditions and flat terrain. The Haines Index is of limited use, however, as a predictor of actual fire behavior. To develop a fire-weather index to predict severe or erratic wildfire behavior, an understanding of how the ambient lower-level atmospheric stability and moisture affects the growth of a wildfire is needed. This study is a first step in this process. This study investigates, through four comparative numerical simulations with a coupled wildfire-atmosphere model, the sensitivity of wildland fires to atmospheric stability and moisture, and in the process explores the correspondence between atmospheric stability and moisture, wildfire behavior, and the Haines Index. In the first three fire simulations, the model atmosphere was initially set to identical moisture but different instability conditions that correspond to Haines Indexes for low, moderate, and high potential for severe fire development. In the fourth fire simulation, the initial atmospheric and moisture conditions were for a high-risk fire Haines Index rating, but different from the initial conditions of dryness and stability of the previous experiments. The study indicates that high-risk fire development is sensitive to near-surface atmospheric stability and moisture, and that there is a range of atmospheric stability and moisture conditions that is important to the development of severe or erratic fire behavior, and that this range is within the atmospheric stability and moisture conditions represented by a Haines Index for high potential for severe fire. The analyses also suggest that there is a substantial latitude of fire behavior for fires rated as this Index, indicating that this Index should be further divided, or refined.
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CitationJenkins, Mary Ann. 2002. An examination of the sensitivity of numerically simulated wildfires to low-level atmospheric stability and moisture, and the consequences for the Haines Index. International Journal of Wildland Fire 11:213-232
Keywordscoupled wildfire, atmospheric numerical modelling
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