5th Symposium on Fire and Forest Meteorology and the 2nd International Wildland Fire Ecology and Fire Management Congress

Monday, 17 November 2003
The Role of a Stratospheric Intrusion in the Evolution of the Double Trouble State Park Wildfire
Joseph J. Charney, USDA Forest Service, East Lansing, MI; and X. Bian, B. E. Potter, and W. E. Heilman
Poster PDF (437.9 kB)
The 2000 fire season brought to the forefront the issue of severe wildland fires in the United States. To address the need for new research and for the development of predictive tools for managing wildland fires, Congress allocated funding under the National Fire Plan (NFP) to better equip government agencies to fight and study forest fires. As part of the NFP research agenda, the Eastern Area Modeling Consortium (EAMC) was established as one of five Fire Consortia for the Advanced Modeling of Meteorology and Smoke (FCAMMS). The centerpiece of the EAMC is an MM5-based modeling system designed to improve understanding of interactions between mesoscale weather processes and fires, and to develop better smoke transport assessments and predictions.

On June 2, 2002, a wildfire occurred in the Double Trouble State Park in east-central New Jersey. The fire burned 1300 acres, destroyed or damaged 10 homes, and forced the closure of the Garden State Parkway for several hours due to dense smoke. The EAMC has analyzed this fire to determine the meteorological conditions that could have contributed to the observed rapid growth and spread. Mesoscale simulations of the meteorological conditions associated with the wildfire suggest that an intrusion of stratospheric air into the planetary boundary layer coincided with the time when the fire rapidly intensified. This stratospheric intrusion appears to have contributed to the development of anomalously dry and windy conditions on the afternoon of the fire. The model indicates that the stratospheric intrusion developed many hours before the time of observed rapid fire growth.

This diagnosis of a mesoscale-feature that is almost undetectable in surface and radiosonde observations indicates the potential for mesoscale models to improve the fire-weather information available to fire fighters and fire managers. Both by providing real-time weather information and as a tool to support research into past wildfire events, mesoscale models represent a fundamentally new tool that is being applied to the fire-weather interaction problem. The simulation results can be used both to develop new fire-weather indices that assess the potential for atmospheric conditions to promote rapid fire spread and can be used to predict when these conditions might occur forty-eight hours or more in advance of the event.

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