Extreme fire behaviour: reconstructing the Waroona fire pyrocumulonimbus and ember storms

HazardNOTES

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Waroona bushfire 2016. Photo DFES
Waroona bushfire 2016. Photo DFES

The Waroona bushfire in Western Australia burnt 69,000 ha in January 2016, destroying more than 160 homes and causing two fatalities. During the first two days of the fire, there were four periods of extreme fire behaviour: two involving massive pyrocumulonimbus (bushfire thunderstorm clouds) and two major ember showers. This extreme fire behaviour was unexpected, so why did it occur? This Hazard Note details a case study that examines the meteorology and fire reconstruction in parallel, identifying the dynamic processes behind the extreme fire behaviour to provide valuable knowledge to apply during future bushfires.

An AFAC Predictive Services Group webinar with lead researcher Dr Mika Peace from the Bureau of Meteorology explores many of the issues in this Hazard Note.

Further reading

Peace, M., McCaw, L., Santos, B., Kepert, J., Burrows, N. and Fawcett, R. 2017. Meteorological drivers of extreme fire behaviour during the Waroona bushfire, Western Australia, January 2016. Journal of Southern Hemisphere Earth Systems Science.

Kepert J., Tory K., Thurston W., Ching S., Fawcett R. and Yeo C. 2016, Fire escalation by downslope winds, Hazard Note 24, Bushfire and Natural Hazards CRC.

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