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Goal: Deliver Benefits to the Public Fire and Smoke Modeling Issues, Gaps, and Measurement Data Needs for Developing Next-Generation Operational Smoke Prediction Models

Director’s Choice
Simulated smoke visualization near Grand Canyon, AZ

Simulated smoke from a prescribed burn near Grand Canyon, AZ on October 19, 2016. Vehicle accidents occurred on I-40 approximately 35 km west of Flagstaff, Arizona. The simulation suggests that this was a superfog event associated with smoldering remnants of a Rx fire conducted along the north side of the expressway. The Streams of particles (yellow) were oriented toward the south-southwest the hour accidents along I-40 were first reported. Natural fog (red) was simulated at a drainage near the lower left corner of the image. Photo by Gary Achtemeier, USDA Forest Service.


Smoke from wildland fires is a major natural hazard to air quality and human health. Providing complete and accurate smoke information is essential to prevent and reduce the impacts of such hazards. This study is an effort to develop the next-generation smoke prediction system to improve smoke prediction skills.


Fire and smoke models are numerical tools for operational smoke prediction systems (OSPS). The US Forest Service uses these tools to provide information to the public for potential health hazards due to wildland fire smoke. Land managers also use these tools to plan and implement prescribed burning.

The capacity of current OSPS is limited due to the difficulty of modeling complex plume structure, dynamics, and interactions with fire, weather, and canopy. Thus, there is an urgent need for developing next-generation OSPS for fire and smoke management.

SRS researchers were one of the modeling leads in a recent research project called the Fire and Smoke Model Evaluation Experiment (FASMEE). The project is funded by the Joint Fire Science Program and aims to provide data for the development of the next-generation OSPS. As part of this project, scientists conducted simulations and experiments to understand model properties and the impacts of field measurement uncertainty. Researchers also identified modeling issues and gaps, measurement data needs for model improvement, and the desired burn conditions that would create the smoke plumes to be simulated. A major conclusion is that high-resolution and dynamical fire behavior and smoke plume processes need to be fully coupled in the development of the next-generation OSPS and the comprehensive and coordinated field measurements of fuel, fire behavior, smoke, meteorology, and atmospheric chemistry are the key for developing the coupled capacity.

Principal Investigator
Yongqiang Liu, Research Meteorologist / Leader, Atmospheric Science Team
4156 - Center for Forest Disturbance Science
Strategic Program Area
Fire and Fuels
Fire and Smoke Model Evaluation Experiment (FASMEE): Modeling gaps and data needs
Research Partners
Scott Goodrick, Project Leader & Research Meteorologist
Gary Achtemeier
External Partners
Adam Kochanski
Kirk Baker
Ruddy Mell
Rodman Linn
Ronan Paugam
Jan Mandel
Aime Fournier
Mary Ann Jenkins
Andrew Hudak
Matthew Dickson
Brian Potter
Craig Clements
Shawn Urbanski
Roger Ottmar
Narasimhan Larkin
Timothy Brown
Nancy French
Susan Prichard
Adam Watts
Derek McNamara