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Numerical Weather Simulations during the 2016 Chimney Tops 2 Fire
11:20 AM - 11:40 AM
Tue Nov 28, 2017
Citron North


Authors: Marcus D. Williams; Scott L. Goodrick; E. Louise Loudermilk; Joseph J. O'Brien

On 29 November 2016 an approaching frontal boundary with strong southerly winds fanned a small fire located in the Chimney Tops area of the Great Smokey Mountains. The resulting fire run forced the evacuation of as many as 14, 000 residents, damaged more than 1,700 structures and unfortunately accounted for 14 fatalities. There are many known linkages between climate and fire behavior, with drought and fire behavior being a well-established example. Numerical weather simulations can lend insight into how additional weather events, such as strong frontal systems interact with fire, and influence fire behavior. This is especially true in areas where observational data are sparse. Preliminary results are presented to determine what role, if any, weather conditions played in the rapid spread of the Chimney Tops 2 fire. Fire runs often occur after frontal boundaries pass, but this fire spread before the approaching frontal system, when higher humidity and precipitation often suppress fire runs. The analysis is conducted using the Weather Research and Forecast (WRF) model. The WRF model is also coupled with a fire spread model (WRF-Fire) to determine if an ignition source and emission source modify any of the simulated interactions between the fire and the atmosphere.

Marcus D Williams
Research Scientist, USDA Forest Service

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