Mapping extreme wildfire behavior

Windsond was successfully used to learn more about the behavior of extreme wildfires. The group was led by Marc Castellnou. They made a field campaign in 2021 and their article was published in the Journal of Geophysical Research Atmospheres in November 2022.

As background, there is a global trend of more intense wildfires. Citing the paper: “The increase in extreme wildfires has had an impact on a global scale, resulting in dramatic consequences in terms of human lives: 173 deaths in Australia in 2009; 110 deaths between June and October 2017 in wildfires in Portugal; 102 deaths in Kineta, Greece, in 2018; 85 deaths in Santa Rosa, California, in 2017; 94 deaths in Paradise, California, in 2018.”

The extreme fires are less predictable, due to their interaction with the atmosphere resulting in the special pyrocumulus and pyrocumulonimbus cloud types. It is known that these make fires more extreme but the measureable relationship is still not defined.

First, Windsond was compared against Vaisala RS41-SG and found to correspond well. Then the authors launched 13 Windsond radiosondes in 7 wildfires during the 2021 fire season in the Iberian Peninsula. The extreme mobility of Windsond is useful in the dangerous and shifting conditions near wildfires.

The measured values differed from those suggested by prior theory, whichs shows the need for in situ measurements. From these and other measurements, they propose a classification of four types of fire-atmospheric interactions, with different effect on the fire spread. They also reached other insights in wildfire behavior.

The paper concludes that “This analysis shows the strong value of using in-fire-plume soundings to advance understanding of the coupling between upper air atmosphere and fire spread.”

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