Research leader

Mika Peace
Dr Mika Peace Research Leader
Jeff Kepert
Dr Jeff Kepert Research Leader

End User representatives

Andrew Stark
Andrew Stark End-User
Mark Chladil
Mark Chladil End-User
Laurence McCoy End-User
Dr Neil Burrows
Dr Neil Burrows End-User
John Bally End-User
Mike Wouters
Mike Wouters End-User

Bushfires affect the surrounding atmosphere because of the large amount of heat and moisture released as a result of combustion. The atmospheric response to this energy input includes changes to the local winds, modification of the boundary layer, and the development of pyroconvective clouds. These changes can profoundly modify the evolution of the fire. This project is:

  • Developing an Australian coupled fire-atmosphere modelling capability based upon the national numerical weather prediction infrastructure.
  • Developing a better understanding the contribution of fire-atmosphere interaction and three-dimensional atmospheric structure to fire behaviour, including spread, intensification, and ‘low-up’ behaviour.
  • Developing a better understanding the impact of fire on the atmosphere, including fire-generated winds and their damage potential, ember transport and plume development.
  • Progressing towards an eventual operational capability for coupled fire-atmosphere modelling within Australia.
  • Improving operational fire prediction services by efficiently transferring the knowledge gained in this project and others to fire weather forecasters and to fire behaviour analysts.
  • Exploring the development of computationally efficient methods for robustly accounting for fire-atmosphere coupling in fire prediction.

The project uses the premier operational Australian high-resolution weather prediction model, the Australian Community Climate and Earth-System Simulator (ACCESS), coupled to a fire spread model.

The coupled fire-atmosphere model ACCESS-Fire will be installed on national Australian computing infrastructure for research application, with future capability for operational use. The model will be used to run a series of case studies. Detailed examination of high impact events and verification against available meteorological and fire behaviour data will highlight the importance of assessing and predicting the likelihood of fire-atmosphere interactions in anticipating fire evolution. The close links of the project team with operational and training activities will provide a clear pathway for implementing research findings.

The January 2016 Waroona bushfire in Western Australia has been selected as the first case study to test the model. Over a two-day period, there were two separate pyro-convective thunderstorms, triggered by different processes during the diurnal cycle. In addition, analysis of Doppler radar data shows detail of the rapid plume development that contributed to the ember shower which burnt Yarloop, causing two fatalities.

This research into interactions with topography, potential for pyro-convection, potential for three dimensional interactions, potential for winds to change substantially around a fire, water vapour dry slots, plume development and spotting process will be integrated into a formal, quantitative system for use with the current fire forecasting system.

Year Type Citation
2018 Conference Paper Bates, J. Research proceedings from the 2018 Bushfire and Natural Hazards CRC and AFAC Conference. Bushfire and Natural Hazards CRC & AFAC annual conference 2017 (Bushfire and Natural Hazards CRC, 2018).
2018 Conference Paper Peace, M., Kepert, J. & Ye, H. Simulations of the waroona fire with the access-fire coupled fire atmosphere model. AFAC18 (Bushfire and Natural Hazards CRC, 2018).
2017 Conference Paper Peace, M. et al. Lessons learned from a multidisciplinary investigation into the Waroona fire. AFAC17 (Bushfire and Natural Hazards CRC, 2017).
2017 Journal Article Peace, M. et al. Meteorological drivers of extreme fire behaviour during the Waroona bushfire, Western Australia, January 2016 . Journal of Southern Hemisphere Earth Systems Science 67, 79-106 (2017).
2017 Report Kepert, J. D., Peace, M. & Ye, H. Coupled fire-atmosphere modelling project: annual project report 2016-17. (Bushfire and Natural Hazards CRC, 2017).
2016 Report Kepert, J. D. & Peace, M. Coupled fire-atmosphere modelling: Annual project report 2015-2016. (Bushfire and Natural Hazards CRC, 2016).
2015 Presentation Kepert, J. D. & Peace, M. Coupled Fire-Atmosphere Modelling. (2015).
Meteorology of the Sampson Flat Fire in January 2015
18 Aug 2015
In January 2015, the Sampson flat bushfire burnt in the Adelaide hills. it was active for 6 days, burning 12,...
Mika Peace Conference Poster 2016
14 Aug 2016
Coupled fire-atmosphere models show three-dimensional interactions between a fire and the surrounding...
Access-fire: Australia's coupled fire-atmosphere model
29 Jun 2017
Some bushfires exhibit extreme behaviour that exceeds the bounds of existing predictive guides. Coupling...
Coupled fire-atmosphere simulations of the Sir Ivan Fire
19 Sep 2018
ACCESS-Fire couples an empirical fire spread model to the Australian numerical weather prediction model. The...