Wind-terrain effects on the propagation of wildfires in rugged terrain: fire channelling

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TitleWind-terrain effects on the propagation of wildfires in rugged terrain: fire channelling
Publication TypeJournal Article
Year of Publication2011
AuthorsSharples, JJ, McRae, RHD, Wilkes, SR
JournalInternational Journal of Wildland Fire
AbstractThe interaction of wind, terrain and a fire burning in a landscape can produce a variety of unusual yet significant effects on fire propagation. One such example, in which a fire exhibits rapid spread in a direction transverse to the synoptic winds as well as in the usual downwind direction, is considered in this paper. This type of fire spread, which is referred to as ‘fire channelling’, is characterised by intense lateral and downwind spotting and production of extensive flaming zones. The dependence of fire channelling on wind and terrain is analysed using wind, terrain and multispectral fire data collected during the January 2003 Alpine fires over south-eastern Australia. As part of the analysis, a simple terrain-filter model is utilised to confirm a quantitative link between instances of fire channelling and parts of the terrain that are sufficiently steep and lee-facing. By appealing to the theory of wind–terrain interaction and the available evidence, several processes that could produce the atypical fire spread are considered and some discounted. Based on the processes that could not be discounted, and a previous analysis of wind regimes in rugged terrain, a likely explanation for the fire channelling phenomenon is hypothesised. Implications of fire channelling for bushfire risk management are also discussed.
Short TitleInt. J. Wildland Fire
Refereed DesignationRefereed