International Journal of Wildland Fire International Journal of Wildland Fire Society
Journal of the International Association of Wildland Fire
RESEARCH ARTICLE

Downdraft outflows: climatological potential to influence fire behaviour

Brian E. Potter A C and Jaime R. Hernandez B
+ Author Affiliations
- Author Affiliations

A USDA Forest Service, Pacific Northwest Wildfire Laboratory, 400 N 34th Street, Suite 201, Seattle, WA 98103, USA.

B College of Idaho, 2112 Cleveland Boulevard, Caldwell, ID 83605, USA.

C Corresponding author. Email: bpotter@fs.fed.us

International Journal of Wildland Fire 26(8) 685-692 https://doi.org/10.1071/WF17035
Submitted: 14 February 2017  Accepted: 19 May 2017   Published: 8 August 2017

Abstract

Sudden wind shifts caused by atmospheric gust fronts can lead to firefighter entrapments and fatalities. In this study, we describe the physical processes involved in the related phenomena of convective downdrafts, gust fronts and downbursts. We focus on the dominant process, evaporative cooling in a dry surface layer, as characterised by the measure known as downdraft maximum available potential energy (DMAPE). We present a climatological analysis of DMAPE for the coterminous United States, developed from the Climate Forecast System Reanalysis data for the period 1979–2008. Diurnal and seasonal patterns are described. We conclude with a discussion of the implications and limitations of the analysis and DMAPE as an indicator of gust front strength or downburst occurrence.

Additional keywords: DMAPE, downburst, downdraft maximum available potential energy, wind shift.


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