Student researcher

Dr Christopher Thomas Research Leader

Numerical models that allow for two-way interaction between a wildfire and the surrounding atmosphere have become an essential tool in understanding the dynamic behaviour of bushfires. They permit a more detailed appreciation of the physical processes underlying extreme bushfire development and provide for a better understanding of the likely impacts of such events. Despite a number of significant advances in coupled fire-atmosphere models, there remains a number of shortcomings. In particular, there are currently no coupled fire-atmosphere models that accommodate spot fire formation and coalescence, despite the fact that such processes are a major contributor to the serious escalation of bushfires. Moreover, current operational fire spread models, which are embedded within coupled fire-atmosphere models, only consider the extraneous factors driving fire spread and only in a simplified way. There are currently no operational fire spread models that account for the intrinsic dynamics of fire spread. This project will investigate the dynamics of fire-fire interactions using the coupled fire-atmosphere model WRF-Fire. The major research questions are:

  • What are the respective contributions of convective and radiative processes when two lines of fire merge?
  • What are the respective contributions of convective and radiative processes when a circle of fire collapses?
  • How can we quantify these effects?
  • To what extent does coupling betwee a fire and the atmosphere account for the intrinsic dynamics of a fire-fire interaction?
  • How can these fundamental effects be incorporated into models for spot fire development?

Fundamental understanding of fire-atmosphere and fire-fire interactions is currently very poor. Indeed, these effects are not accounted for explicitly in operational models. As such the dynamic effects that arise in situations such as when fire lines merge of spot fires coalesce are not properly acknowledged. This research will contribute to improving fundamental understanding of these effects and contibute by delivering

  • An a dataset of coupled fire-atmosphere simulations of fundamental burning scenarios for comparison with experimental data.
  • Quantification of the separate effects of radiation and convection in fire-fire interactions
  • Informing the development of models that properly account for fire-fire interactions
  • Evaluation of state of the art modelling methodologies, particularly those pertaining to spot fire development
Christopher Thomas Conference Poster 2016
14 Aug 2016
A key problem in wildfire modelling is how to capture dynamic fire behaviour in models suitable for...
Incorporation of spotting and fire dynamics in a coupled atmosphere - fire modelling framework
29 Jun 2017
This project focuses on looking for ways to improve operational fire-spread modelling by looking for...