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Use of NWP models to identify convective outflows for fire weather forecasting - Final Report to the Joint Fire Science Program

Author(s): Jordan G. Powers, Jim Bresch, Craig S. Schwartz, Janice L. Coen, Ryan A. Sobash
Year Published: 2020

Abrupt changes in wind direction and speed can dramatically impact wildfire development and spread. Most importantly, such changes can pose significant problems to firefighting efforts and have resulted in a number of fire fatalities over the years. Frequent causes of such wind shifts are thunderstorm and convective system outflows, known as gust fronts, and the identification and prediction of these present critical challenges for fire weather forecasters. Anticipating and warning of these phenomena in wildland fire situations thus represent opportunities for enhancing the safety of incident personnel and the effectiveness of the firefighting operations. With these considerations we have developed a software tool to identify and depict convective outflow boundaries in high-resolution numerical weather prediction (NWP) models to provide guidance for fire weather forecasting. The tool consists of software to process model output, algorithms to objectively identify gust fronts, and a graphics utility to display the detected boundaries. For testing, development, and evaluation, the tool is applied to both deterministic and ensemble NWP modeling systems, with the latter providing probabilistic forecast information. The NWP systems used are the High-Resolution Rapid Refresh system, run by NOAA’s National Centers for Environmental Prediction, and the National Center for Atmospheric Research high-resolution ensemble. Both systems employ the widely-used Weather Research and Forecasting Model. The tool produces various products revealing model-predicted gust fronts. It shows success with forecasts of convective events occurring in both simple and complex terrain, both with and without concurrent wildfire activity. With accurate underlying model forecast output, the tool can indicate areas of potential gust front activity and provide valuable information to wildfire meteorologists and incident command personnel.

Citation: Powers, Jordan G.; Bresch, James F.; Schwartz, Craig S.; Coen, Janice L.; Sobash, Ryan A. 2019. Use of NWP models to identify convective outflows for fire weather forecasting - Final Report to the Joint Fire Science Program. JFSP Project No. 17-1-05-5. University Corporation for Atmospheric Research. 45 p.
Topic(s): Fire Behavior, Weather
Ecosystem(s): None
Document Type: Book or Chapter or Journal Article
NRFSN number: 20784
FRAMES RCS number: 60838
Record updated: Mar 9, 2020