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Project ID: 03-2-1-04

Year: 2003

Date Started: 07/29/2003

Date Completed: 10/17/2006

Title: Modeling Surface Winds in Complex Terrain for Wildland Fire Incident Support

Project Proposal Abstract: The following constitutes a proposal submitted in response to JFSP RFP 2003-2 Task-i. One najor source of uncertainty in fire behavior predictions is spatial variation in the wind fields used in the ire models. Mountainsides, valleys, ridges, and the fire itself, influence both the speed and direction of wind flows. Surface wind variations cannot be predicted by synoptic forecasting methods or on-site observations and are therefore not available to fire modelers. While some tools do exist for diagnostic wind modeling (e.g. NUATMOS, CALMET etc), such tools have limited ability to resolve wind flows in the topographic gradients which generally requires full-physics solutions of the navier-stokes equations. Short-range meteorological forecasts and fire behavior calculations (e.g. 6-12 hrs) on large fires could greatly benefit from information on local winds at resolutions of 10 to 100 meters. It is only within he last few years that commercial computational fluid dynamics software (CFD) has become available at a cost and in a form that allows practitioners to approach complex fluid flow problems. These tools have long been used in fluid flow dependent engineering problems (aircraft design, internal combustion engine design, etc), however they are only just beginning to be used to address environmental problems (e.g. modeling of the dispersion of toxic gases from hazardous waste spills, the selection of optimal sites for wind turbines, wind loads on high rise buildings, etc). This proposal requests funding primarily for a proof of concept project with three objectives: 1) develop a methodology for using commercially available CFD tools to produce high resolution surface wind maps and 2) quantify the effect of high resolution surface wind data on fire behavior predictions from the FARSITE software package, and 3) address the fundamental science question of the practical potential for modeling fire-induced changes to he wind fields. Although computationally intensive, available commercial codes are fully parallelized for multi-processor computers and have been shown to produce a typical solution (101 to 102 m resolution wind speed and direction) on a grid measuring 10 by 10 kilometers in a matter of hours. This project equests funding to purchase annual licenses for the software, upgrade computer memory and capability as needed, employ nonpermanent staff to execute the simulations, and pay for travel costs to and from wildland fires where team members will deploy automatic weather stations to collect detailed wind data from comparison against predicted winds.

Principal Investigator: Mark A. Finney

Agency/Organization: Forest Service

Branch or Dept: RMRS-Fire Sciences Lab-Missoula

Other Project Collaborators




Branch or Dept

Co-Principal Investigator

Larry Bradshaw

Forest Service

RMRS-Fire Sciences Lab-Missoula

Co-Principal Investigator

Bret W. Butler

Forest Service

RMRS-Fire Sciences Lab-Missoula


Wayne Cook

Forest Service

RMRS-Fire Sciences Lab-Missoula

Federal Cooperator

Mark A. Finney

Forest Service

RMRS-Fire Sciences Lab-Missoula

Project Locations

Fire Science Exchange Network


There are no project locations identified for this project.

Project Deliverables

Final Report view or print

("Results presented in JFSP Final Reports may not have been peer-reviewed and should be interpreted as tentative until published in a peer-reviewed source.")

  ID Type Title
    1631 Government Publication Fire Growth Simulations of the Price Canyon, Thirtymile and Storm King Mountain Fires Using High Resolution Wind Simulation Tools and Farsite
    1061 Government Publication The Use of Computational Fluid Dynamics to Provide High Resolution Wind Information for Use in Fire Growth Modeling
    1066 Government Publication High Resolution Surface Wind Simulations in Complex Terrain
    1067 Government Publication WindWizard: A New Tool for Fire Management Decision Support
    2528 Journal Article High Resolution Wind Direction and Speed Information for Support of Fire Operations
    946 Conference/Symposia/Workshop Summaries Comparing Predicted and Measured Wind
    947 Computer Model/Software/Algorithm  
    948 Conference/Symposia/Workshop Technology Made Available to Field and Fire Incident Management Teams
    1124 Computer Model/Software/Algorithm  
    1127 Conference/Symposia/Workshop High Resolution Wind Direction and Speed Information for Support of Fire Operations
    1272 Conference/Symposia/Workshop Predicting Surface Winds in Complex Terrain for Use in Fire Growth Models
    1273 Poster High Resolution Wind Data for Fire Management Teams

Supporting Documents

There are no supporting documents available for this project.

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