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

Experimental confirmation of the MWIR and LWIR grey body assumption for vegetation fire flame emissivity

J. M. Johnston A B D , M. J. Wooster B C and T. J. Lynham A

A Great Lakes Forestry Centre, Canadian Forest Service, 1219 Queen Street East., Sault Ste Marie, ON, P6A 2E5, Canada.

B King’s College London, Earth and Environmental Dynamics Research Group, Department of Geography, Strand, London WC2R 2LS, UK.

C NERC National Centre for Earth Observation.

D Corresponding author. Email: joshua.johnston@nrcan-rncan.gc.ca

International Journal of Wildland Fire 23(4) 463-479 http://dx.doi.org/10.1071/WF12197
Submitted: 22 December 2012  Accepted: 2 January 2014   Published: 13 May 2014

Abstract

The temperature and emissivity of forest fire flames play a key role in understanding fire behaviour, modelling fire spread and calculating fire parameters by means of active fire thermal remote sensing. Essential to many of these is the often-made assumption that vegetation fire flames behave as grey bodies in the infrared (IR). Although the emissivity of flames and its relationship to flame depth has been measured experimentally using thermal imagers working in the long-wave IR (LWIR, 8–12 µm), no published study has yet demonstrated relationships in the important mid-wave IR (MWIR, 3–5 µm) spectral region, nor conclusively demonstrated that assumptions about grey body behaviour across these two important IR atmospheric windows fit well with reality. Our study explores these issues using measurements of boreal forest fuels burned with flame depths ranging from 0.2 to 4.2 m. Observations of two stable black body sources made through the differing flame depths were used to explore flame spectral emissivities and their relationship to flame depth. We found essentially the same relationship between flame emissivity and flame depth for both spectral regions, (extinction coefficient K = 0.7 m–1), confirming that the grey body assumption for forest fire flames in the MWIR and LWIR atmospheric windows appears valid for the fire conditions encountered here.

Additional keywords: bi-spectral, emissivity, heat transfer, infrared, radiation, soot, thermal remote sensing.


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