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

Tuesday, 18 November 2003: 3:30 PM
The BlueSky Smoke Modeling Framework (www.BlueSkyRAINS.org)
Susan M. O'Neill, USDA Forest Service, Seattle, WA; and S. A. Ferguson, J. Peterson, and R. Wilson
Poster PDF (243.0 kB)
BlueSky is a real-time smoke forecast system that predicts surface smoke concentrations from prescribed fire, wildfire, and agricultural burn activities. Developed by the USDA Forest Service in cooperation with the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), it is a tool used by fire managers to aid in burn/no-burn decisions. Such a tool is of critical importance because competition for airshed is increasing. A history of fire suppression has left many forests ripe for catastrophic wildfires. Prescribed fire is a means of reducing the wildfire risk and for re-establishing the natural Eco-system. Furthermore, wheat stubble burning and grassland burning are part of the typical practices of many farming communities. Many of these burning activities occur at rural/urban interfaces and can impact sensitive populations such as asthmatics and the elderly. Thus a tool such as BlueSky, by providing daily predictions of where smoke plumes will occur and indicting concentration levels, is extremely useful to burn managers in a variety of agencies making burn/no-burn decisions.

Five major components comprise the BlueSky modeling framework: Burn Reporting, Real-time Meteorology, Emissions Estimation, Dispersion, and Web-Display of all the output products. Nightly, BlueSky downloads predicted burn information from two burn reporting systems; the Fuel Analysis, Smoke Tracking, Report Access Computer System (FASTRACS) and the Montana Idaho Airshed Group's System ("RAZU"). The information includes date, time and location of the fire, acres burned, and an estimate of fuel loadings. These data are then processed through the EPMv1.02 model to give emission estimates of PM2.5, PM10, total PM, CO, CO2, CH4, and heat generated. Simultaneously, meteorology from the University of Washington?s MM5 forecast system is downloaded and processed for the CALPUFF Gaussian dispersion model and the HYSPLIT trajectory model. Twelve-hour trajectories are computed from each of the burn locations and CALPUFF is run using the emission estimates from EPM and the MM5 meteorology to give a concentration field of PM2.5. The concentration fields and trajectories are displayed on the web-site in the Rapid Access INformation System (RAINS); a Graphical Information System (GIS) application developed by the US EPA. By integrating BlueSky with RAINS, the user can zoom in on areas of interest, step through time, and overlay GIS data layers such as sensitive receptors (e.g. schools, hospitals), geo-political boundaries, and topography. BlueSky is a success story in the Pacific Northwest where it has been operational since July 2002, running on a 12 km domain. It also aided land managers monitoring the Quartz Complex wildfire for confinement strategy in the Pasayton wilderness of Washington State.

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