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

A comparison of three approaches for simulating fine-scale surface winds in support of wildland fire management. Part I. Model formulation and comparison against measurements

Jason M. Forthofer A B , Bret W. Butler A and Natalie S. Wagenbrenner A

A US Forest Service, Rocky Mountain Research Station, Missoula Fire Sciences Laboratory, 5775 W Highway 10, Missoula, MT 59808-9361, USA.

B Corresponding author. Email: jaforthofer@fs.fed.us

International Journal of Wildland Fire 23(7) 969-981 http://dx.doi.org/10.1071/WF12089
Submitted: 6 June 2012  Accepted: 9 May 2014   Published: 18 August 2014

Abstract

For this study three types of wind models have been defined for simulating surface wind flow in support of wildland fire management: (1) a uniform wind field (typically acquired from coarse-resolution (~4 km) weather service forecast models); (2) a newly developed mass-conserving model and (3) a newly developed mass and momentum-conserving model (referred to as the momentum-conserving model). The technical foundation for the two new modelling approaches is described, simulated surface wind fields are compared to field measurements, and the sensitivity of the new model types to mesh resolution and aspect ratio (second type only) is discussed. Both of the newly developed models assume neutral stability and are designed to be run by casual users on standard personal computers. Simulation times vary from a few seconds for the mass-conserving model to ~1 h for the momentum-conserving model using consumer-grade computers. Applications for this technology include use in real-time fire spread prediction models to support fire management activities, mapping local wind fields to identify areas of concern for firefighter safety and exploring best-case weather scenarios to achieve prescribed fire objectives. Both models performed best on the upwind side and top of terrain features and had reduced accuracy on the lee side. The momentum-conserving model performed better than the mass-conserving model on the lee side.

Additional keywords: fire growth modelling, wildland fire decision support, wind modelling.


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