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Title: Effects of Density Current, Diurnal Heating, and Local Terrain on the Mesoscale Environment Conducive to the Yarnell Hill Fire
The Yarnell Hill Fire, triggered by dry lightning on 28 June 2013, was initiated by hot and dry westerly winds, which rapidly shifted to north-northeast by convective-induced outflows. This sudden wind shift led to the demise of 19 firefighters. This study focuses on the environment and its predictive potential in terms of erratically changing the fire spread. Three numerical sensitivity tests are performed investigating the evolving synoptic-meso-β scale environmental wind flow: (1) deactivating the evaporative cooling, (2) deactivating surface-driven diurnal heating/cooling, and (3) removing the mountain. Results show the strong north-northeasterly wind induced by the density current(s) and the diurnal surface sensible heating played the most significant roles in enhancing the mesoscale environment conducive to the rapid change in the fire spread direction. While the mountain played a less significant role in weakening the magnitude of the airflow affecting the fire, it still had an impact. Additionally, the Hot-Dry-Windy (HDW) index is calculated to determine its predictor role with respect to the atmosphere affecting the fire. The focus is not on feedback from explicit fire heating on the larger environment but rather the role of the environmental physical processes in causing the convectively induced rapid wind shifts.  more » « less
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National Science Foundation
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