Evaluation of WRF-SFIRE performance with field observations from the FireFlux experiment
- 1Department of Atmospheric Science, University of Utah, Salt Lake City, UT, USA
- 2Department of Earth and Space Science and Engineering, York University, Toronto, ON, Canada
- 3Department of Mathematical and Statistical Sciences, University of Colorado Denver, Denver, CO, USA
- 4Météo France and CERFACS, Toulouse, France
- 5Department of Meteorology and Climate Science, San José State University, San José, CA, USA
Abstract. This study uses in situ measurements collected during the FireFlux field experiment to evaluate and improve the performance of the coupled atmosphere–fire model WRF-SFIRE. The simulation by WRF-SFIRE of the experimental burn shows that WRF-SFIRE is capable of providing realistic head-fire rate of spread and vertical temperature structure of the fire plume, and fire-induced surface flow and vertical velocities within the plume up to 10 m above ground level. The simulation captured the changes in wind speed and direction before, during, and after fire front passage, along with the arrival times of wind speed, temperature, and updraft maxima, at the two instrumented flux towers used in FireFlux. The model overestimated vertical wind speeds and underestimated horizontal wind speeds measured at tower heights above 10 m. It is hypothesized that the limited model spatial resolution led to overestimates of the fire front depth, heat release rate, and updraft speed. However, on the whole, WRF-SFIRE simulated fire plume behavior that is consistent with FireFlux observations. The study suggests optimal experimental pre-planning, design, and execution strategies for future field campaigns that are intended to evaluate and develop further coupled atmosphere–fire models.