1.3 Meteorological Observations and Review of the Gatlinburg Wildfire

Monday, 8 January 2018: 9:15 AM
Ballroom D (ACC) (Austin, Texas)
Matthew E. Anderson, NOAA/NWS, Morristown, TN; and A. Pritchett

The Chimney Top 2/Gatlinburg, TN wildfire was one of the worst documented wildfires to occur across the Southern Appalachians. The combination of dry fuels and strong winds led to the rapid spread of the Chimney Top 2 fire on the evening of November 28, 2016 resulting in the deaths of 14 individuals. The nature of the event led to extensive national media attention. Widespread drought across the Southern Appalachians and the local meteorological conditions were highly important to the wildfire’s behavior. Leading up to the event, most of eastern Tennessee was either in the extreme drought or exceptional drought category with many locations in excess of 20 inches below normal for the year to date. A strong mid-level cyclone moved over the Southern Appalachians on November 28, 2016, bringing in gusty southeasterly winds. Mountain waves develop in these scenarios when the large-scale winds are perpendicular to the Southern Appalachians with a stable air-mass along the western foothills. These events have been known to produce winds as highs as 45 m/s in the western foothills of the Southern Appalachian Mountains. This study will look into the meteorological conditions preceding and during the event which lead to the rapid spread of the Chimney Top 2 fire. In addition, this study will look into the dual-polarimetric radar signatures of the smoke and ash from the Chimney Top 2 fire.
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