--- NESL, the NCAR
      Earth System Laboratory ---

Coupled Weather-Wildland Fire Modeling

Case Studies

The following animations show coupled weather-fire behavior model simulations of the growth of wildfires. They were simulated using the CAWFE model (CAWFE=Coupled Atmosphere-Wildland Fire Environment).

Yarnell Hill Fire (Ignition: 6/28/13 near Yarnell, Arizona)
Collaborator: Wilfrid Schroeder (Univ. of Maryland)
On June 30, 2013, 19 firefighters were killed during the Yarnell Hill fire, when a gust front coming from the northeast blew across the fire, changing its direction, and making it spread rapidly across where they were sheltered.

The animation depicts a CAWFE coupled weather-wildland fire model simulation of the Yarnell Hill Fire.  The horizontal resolution was 370 m, a vector is shown each 4 model grid points.  It begins at 2 am on 6/30/13. The fire is initialized in the model using the ~3 am VIIRS active fire detection map.  Each frame is 1 minute apart, the sequence extends until 8:15 pm on 6/30. The fatality occurred around 4:45 PM. The color bar on the right indicates the heat flux (watts per square meter) from the fire, with more intensely burning areas in bright yellow and white, and less intensely burning areas in darker reds. In the simulation, solar heating stirs up the boundary layer circulations throughout the day. Convection occurs in outer domains (not shown) to the northeast, creating high-based convective clouds as air flows south/southeast over the Mogollon Rim. Rain falls into a very dry boundary layer,  creating a broad gust front that  reaches the south edge of the fire at frame 936, which is 51 minutes after the fatality, so the simulated rush through the fatality site is about an hour slow.
VAPOR visualization of CAWFE simulation of the Yarnell
          Hill Fire
Animation - click here for .avi (PC) (2.4 Gb)
Animation - click here for .mov (Mac) (1.0 Gb)
Animation - click here for mp4 (5.8 Mb)

Little Bear Fire (Ignition: 6/4/12 near Ruidoso, NM)

Collaborator: Wilfrid Schroeder (Univ. of Maryland)

The Little Bear Fire was ignited by lightning strike in the Sierra Blanco Mountains of New Mexico. It burned 17,939 ha (44,330 ac) and 254 buildings and was the most destructive fire in New Mexico State history.