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.