Factors influencing the development of violent pyroconvection. Part I: Fire size and stability.

Badlan, R., J. Sharples, J. Evans, and R. McRae
International Journal of Wildland Fire, 30(7), 484-497, doi: 10.1071/WF20040, 2021.


Violent fire-driven convection can manifest as towering pyrocumulus (pyroCu) or pyrocumulonimbus (pyroCb) clouds, which can have devastating impacts on the environment and society. Their associated fire spread is erratic, unpredictable and not generally suppressible. Research into large pyroconvective events has mainly focused on the atmospheric processes involved in normal atmospheric convection, or on surface fire weather and associated fuel conditions. There has been comparatively less attention paid to the role of the fire itself in these coupled fire–atmosphere events. This paper draws on recent insights into dynamic fire propagation and extreme wildfire development to investigate how the fire influences the occurrence of violent pyroconvective events. A static heat source of variable dimension and intensity is used. This is accompanied by a companion paper that extends the analysis by including the effect of fire geometry on the pyroconvective plume. The analyses indicate that the spatial expanse and intensity of large fires are critical factors driving the development of pyroconvective plumes and can override the influence of the stability of the atmosphere. These findings provide motivation for further investigation into the effect of the fire’s attributes on the immediate atmosphere and have the potential to improve forecasting of blow-up fire events.

Key Figure

Fig. 9. Time-averaged cross-sections of six plumes. The left-hand column (a, c and e) shows 5 ms-1 simulations, and the right hand column (b, d, and f) are 10 ms-1 simulation, for 150, 500 and 750 m radius fires. The coloured contours show vertical velocities. The dashed line is the plume centreline calculated using the Briggs equation.

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