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Atmosphere 2018, 9(12), 462; https://doi.org/10.3390/atmos9120462

The Generation and Forecast of Extreme Winds during the Origin and Progression of the 2017 Tubbs Fire

1
National Center for Atmospheric Research, P.O. Box 3000, Boulder, CO 80301, USA
2
National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, National Environmental Satellite, Data, and Information Service, 5830 University Research Ct, College Park, MD 20740, USA
3
U.S.D.A. Forest Service, Geospatial Technology and Applications Center, 2222 West 2300 South, Salt Lake City, UT 84119, USA
*
Author to whom correspondence should be addressed.
Received: 5 July 2018 / Revised: 15 October 2018 / Accepted: 20 November 2018 / Published: 24 November 2018
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Fire and the Atmosphere)
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Abstract

On 8–9 October 2017, fourteen wildfires developed rapidly during a strong Diablo wind event in northern California including the Tubbs Fire, which travelled over 19 km in 3.25 h. Here, we applied the CAWFE® coupled numerical weather prediction-fire modeling system to investigate the airflow regime and extreme wind peaks underlying the extreme fire behavior using simulations that refine from a 10 km to a 185 m horizontal grid spacing. We found that as Diablo winds travelled south down the Sacramento Valley and fanned out southwestward over the Wine Country, their strength waxed and waned and their direction wavered, creating varying locations near fire origins where wind overrunning topography reached 30–40 m/s, along with streaks and bursts of strong winds in the lee of some topographic features and stagnation downstream of others. Despite a statically stable layer in the lowest 1.5 km, the high Froude number flow sometimes resembled a hydraulic jump. Elsewhere, the flow behaved similarly to neutrally-stratified flow over small hills, creating wind extrema that exceeded 40 m/s at the crest of some lesser hills including near the Tubbs fire ignition, but which shed bursts of high speed winds that travel downstream at approximately 5–7-min intervals. Nonetheless, simulated fire growth lagged satellite detection of fire arrival in Santa Rosa by up to 1 h, although whether the data detect fire line or spotting is ambiguous. A forecast simulation with a 370 m horizontal grid spacing produced an on-time fire line arrival in Santa Rosa, with calculations executed 4 times faster than real time on a single computer processor. View Full-Text
Keywords: coupled atmosphere-fire model; fire prediction; fire behavior; numerical weather prediction; satellite active fire detection coupled atmosphere-fire model; fire prediction; fire behavior; numerical weather prediction; satellite active fire detection
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This is an open access article distributed under the Creative Commons Attribution License which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited (CC BY 4.0).

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Coen, J.L.; Schroeder, W.; Quayle, B. The Generation and Forecast of Extreme Winds during the Origin and Progression of the 2017 Tubbs Fire. Atmosphere 2018, 9, 462.

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