What can wildland fire research learn from severe storms?
Technology and research on storms and cumulus convection have made some advances that could make wildfire plume convection more tractable. Digital photography, unmanned aerial platforms, and satellite imagery all provide opportunities for velocity analysis. Lidar can provide insight into the processes hidden within the smoke plume. Numerical models that include explicit, coupled combustion physics at the ground and atmospheric dynamics are gaining credibility. And fire-hardened in situ instruments are allowing collection of data previously unavailable for analysis and model development.
I will present an overview of existing wildfire plume studies, theory and models, discussing key similarities and differences between these plumes and severe storms. I will illustrate how the models do or do not realistically represent fire behavior and smoke dispersion. I will also suggest some aspects of the wildfire circulation that may be more conducive to study, and how better understanding of the circulation can improve wildland fire fighter safety and smoke impact forecasts.