Atmospheric turbulent structures and fire sweeps during shrub fires and implications for flaming zone behaviour

Type of content
Journal Article
Thesis discipline
Degree name
CSIRO Publishing
Journal Title
Journal ISSN
Volume Title
Noonan B
Zhang J
Valencia A
Shumacher B
Kerr J
Strand T
Pearce G
Zawar-Reza P
Katurji, Marwan

Background. Wildfires propagate through vegetation exhibiting complex spread patterns modulated by ambient atmospheric wind turbulence. Wind gusts at the fire-front extend and intensify flames causing direct convective heating towards unburnt fuels resulting in rapid acceleration of spread. Aims. To characterise ambient and fire turbulence over gorse shrub and explore how this contributes to fire behaviour. Methods. Six experimental burns were carried out in Rakaia, New Zealand under varying meteorological conditions. The ignition process ensured a fire-line propagating through dense gorse bush (1 m high). Two 30-m sonic anemometer towers measured turbulent wind velocity at six different levels above the ground. Visible imagery was captured by cameras mounted on uncrewed aerial vehicles at 200 m AGL. Key results. Using wavelet decomposition, we identified different turbulent time scales that varied between 1 and 128 s relative to height above vegetation. Quadrant analysis identified statistical distributions of atmospheric sweeps (downbursts of turbulence towards vegetation) with sustained events emanating from above the vegetation canopy and impinging at the surface with time scales up to 10 s. Conclusions. Image velocimetry enabled tracking of ‘fire sweeps’ and characterised for the first time their lifetime and dynamics in comparison with overlying atmospheric turbulent structures. Implications. This methodology can provide a comprehensive toolkit when investigating coupled atmosphere–fire interactions.

Katurji M, Noonan B, Zhang J, Valencia A, Shumacher B, Kerr J, Strand T, Pearce G, Zawar-Reza P (2022). Atmospheric turbulent structures and fire sweeps during shrub fires and implications for flaming zone behaviour. International Journal of Wildland Fire.
coherent structures, fire sweeps, fire turbulence, fire–atmosphere interactions, flaming zone, image velocimetry, surface-layer turbulence, UAV
Ngā upoko tukutuku/Māori subject headings
ANZSRC fields of research
0502 Environmental Science and Management
0602 Ecology
0705 Forestry Sciences
Fields of Research::37 - Earth sciences::3701 - Atmospheric sciences::370105 - Atmospheric dynamics
Fields of Research::41 - Environmental sciences::4102 - Ecological applications::410205 - Fire ecology
Fields of Research::37 - Earth sciences::3709 - Physical geography and environmental geoscience::370903 - Natural hazards
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