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South Texas Fire Weather Jason Runyen Fire Weather Program Leader National Weather Service Corpus Christi.

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Presentation on theme: "South Texas Fire Weather Jason Runyen Fire Weather Program Leader National Weather Service Corpus Christi."— Presentation transcript:

1 South Texas Fire Weather Jason Runyen Fire Weather Program Leader National Weather Service Corpus Christi

2 South Texas Fire Weather Topics we will cover: 1.Importance of weather to your prescribed burns Winds Relative Humidity 2. Stability 3.Ventilation basics Mixing Heights Transport Winds 4.Critical fire weather patterns to avoid 5.NWS products and services at your fingertips

3 South Texas Fire Weather Section 1: Importance of weather to your prescribed burns

4 Why is weather so important? Success in prescribed burns is directly related to how well you understand and are able to predict fire behavior. The safety of all personnel also depends on fire behavior knowledge.

5 Wildland Fire Behavior WEATHER TOPOGRAPHY FUELS Wind Stability Fuel Moisture Fuel Temperature Fuel Characteristics Terrain

6 It can not be overemphasized: A basic knowledge and awareness of weather is essential for making critical fire management decisions.

7 Why is weather so important? Two of the most critical weather elements: Wind and Relative Humidity

8 Effects of Wind on Wildland Fire Behavior 1.Wind carries away moisture-laden air and thus hastens the drying of wildland fuels 2. Once a fire ignites, wind aids combustion by increasing the supply of oxygen 3. Wind increases fire spread by carrying heat and burning embers to new fuels - Spotting 4. Wind bends the flames closer to the unburned fuels, thus preheating the fuels ahead of the fire front

9 Effects of Wind on Wildland Fire Behavior 5.The direction of the fire spread is determined mostly by direction of the wind 6.Wind influences the amount of fuel consumed by affecting the residence time of the flaming front of the fire. The stronger the wind, the shorter the residence time and the less fuel is consumed.

10 Why is weather so important? Wind Generally the wind prescription for a successful burn is: 5 to 15 mph and a Steady wind direction

11 Why is weather so important? Wind 5 to 15 mph and a Steady wind direction Light and variable winds create poor burning conditions and an unpredictable direction of spread High wind speeds may reduce fuel consumption, increase chances of escape, and increase risk of spotting

12 Why is weather so important? Wind 5 to 15 mph and a Steady wind direction Conducting burns when winds are forecasted to change direction is not advised A stable/consistent wind direction throughout the burn will avoid unpredictable fire behavior

13 Critical Winds Cold Front Winds Fronts –Boundary between two dissimilar airmasses –Extend from the center of low pressure –Move at 20 to 30 mph Cold Front –Boundary separating a cold airmass from a warm airmass –Can migrate west to east and north to south Fronts –Boundary between two dissimilar airmasses –Extend from the center of low pressure –Move at 20 to 30 mph Cold Front –Boundary separating a cold airmass from a warm airmass –Can migrate west to east and north to south

14 Critical Winds Cold Front Winds Pre-Frontal Conditions –Light southeast winds 150 miles ahead of the front –Winds shifting and increasing from the south as the front approaches –Winds shifting southwest just ahead of the front and becoming strong –Winds strongest along the front –Warm air ahead of the front –Sometimes but not always a dry airmass –Unstable airmass –Favorable burning environment Pre-Frontal Conditions –Light southeast winds 150 miles ahead of the front –Winds shifting and increasing from the south as the front approaches –Winds shifting southwest just ahead of the front and becoming strong –Winds strongest along the front –Warm air ahead of the front –Sometimes but not always a dry airmass –Unstable airmass –Favorable burning environment

15 Critical Winds Cold Front Winds Post-Frontal Conditions –Winds rapidly shift to the northwest as the front passes with speeds remaining strong and gusty –Temperatures cool rapidly –RH increases –Fire behavior typically decreases Post-Frontal Conditions –Winds rapidly shift to the northwest as the front passes with speeds remaining strong and gusty –Temperatures cool rapidly –RH increases –Fire behavior typically decreases

16 Two Characteristics important to fire weather –Lightning –Indraft and downdraft winds are most important Two Characteristics important to fire weather –Lightning –Indraft and downdraft winds are most important Critical Winds Thunderstorm Winds Critical Winds Thunderstorm Winds

17 –Indrafts and downdrafts can change both direction and speed suddenly –Result in sudden changes in rate and direction of fire as well as intensity –Indraft speeds range from 10 to 20 mph and gusty –Downdrafts speeds range from 25 to 35 mph with gusts over 60 mph Thunderstorm Winds –Indrafts and downdrafts can change both direction and speed suddenly –Result in sudden changes in rate and direction of fire as well as intensity –Indraft speeds range from 10 to 20 mph and gusty –Downdrafts speeds range from 25 to 35 mph with gusts over 60 mph Critical Winds Thunderstorm Winds Critical Winds Thunderstorm Winds

18 Gust Front –Leading edge of the downdraft –Boundary between two dissimilar airmasses, similar to a cold front –Most of the time, marked by a wind shift, decrease in temperature and increase in RH Gust Front –Leading edge of the downdraft –Boundary between two dissimilar airmasses, similar to a cold front –Most of the time, marked by a wind shift, decrease in temperature and increase in RH Critical Winds Thunderstorm Winds Critical Winds Thunderstorm Winds

19 Low-Level Jet –A jet stream 100 feet to several thousand feet above ground –Develop ahead of cold fronts or troughs –Wind speeds of 25 to 35 mph –Can increase lift and plume dominated fire –Can surface and significantly increase rates of spread Low-Level Jet –A jet stream 100 feet to several thousand feet above ground –Develop ahead of cold fronts or troughs –Wind speeds of 25 to 35 mph –Can increase lift and plume dominated fire –Can surface and significantly increase rates of spread Critical Winds Low-Level Jets Critical Winds Low-Level Jets

20 Local Winds Land and Sea Breeze Land-Sea Circulation –Temperature and pressure contrasts between land and sea –Little if any temperature change over the large body of water –Large temperature change over land from day to night –Sea breeze during the day –Land breeze at night –Strongest in spring and summer –Land-Sea breeze mph Land-Sea Circulation –Temperature and pressure contrasts between land and sea –Little if any temperature change over the large body of water –Large temperature change over land from day to night –Sea breeze during the day –Land breeze at night –Strongest in spring and summer –Land-Sea breeze mph

21 Local Winds Sea Breeze 1998 Perry Fire

22 Affects fuel moisture - as RH increases, fuel moisture increases Affects fire intensity - fires of different intensity can be achieved by selecting different times of day or night as well as different weather conditions Affects rate of spread Some fuels will not burn adequately if RH is too high Fire becomes difficult to control if RH is too low Effects of RH on Wildland Fire Behavior

23 Why is weather so important? Relative Humidity Generally the RH prescription for a successful burn is: Above 30% and Below 60%

24

25 South Texas Fire Weather Section 2: Stability

26 Stable Atmosphere – Suppresses or resists vertical movement of air Stable Atmosphere – Suppresses or resists vertical movement of air Unstable Atmosphere – Enhances or encourages vertical movement of air Unstable Atmosphere – Enhances or encourages vertical movement of air Three Types of Stability Neutral Atmosphere – Neither suppresses nor enhances vertical movement of air. This condition seldom exists for long periods of time. Neutral Atmosphere – Neither suppresses nor enhances vertical movement of air. This condition seldom exists for long periods of time.

27 Rising Air Unstable atmosphere Promotes the formation and growth of vertically developed clouds, thunderstorms and tall smoke columns Unstable atmosphere Promotes the formation and growth of vertically developed clouds, thunderstorms and tall smoke columns

28 An unstable atmosphere is most often associated with critical or extreme wildland fire behavior. An unstable atmosphere is most often associated with critical or extreme wildland fire behavior.

29 The Effects of Unstable Atmospheric Conditions on Wildland Fire Behavior The Effects of Unstable Atmospheric Conditions on Wildland Fire Behavior A) Increased likelihood of fire whirls and dust devils (both indicators of very unstable conditions) A) Increased likelihood of fire whirls and dust devils (both indicators of very unstable conditions) B) Increased likelihood for gusty and erratic surface winds B) Increased likelihood for gusty and erratic surface winds C) The height and strength of convection and smoke columns often increase significantly, and C) The height and strength of convection and smoke columns often increase significantly, and D) Increased likelihood of fire brands being lifted to great heights. D) Increased likelihood of fire brands being lifted to great heights.

30 Stable atmosphere Light winds and poor smoke dispersal from poor vertical mixing Stable atmosphere Light winds and poor smoke dispersal from poor vertical mixing trapped smoke and haze

31 A stable atmosphere will tend to suppress or reduce wildland fire behavior. A stable atmosphere will tend to suppress or reduce wildland fire behavior.

32 The Effects of Stable Atmospheric Conditions on Wildland Fire Behavior The Effects of Stable Atmospheric Conditions on Wildland Fire Behavior A) Limited rise of smoke columns, resulting in poor smoke dispersion and visibility. A) Limited rise of smoke columns, resulting in poor smoke dispersion and visibility. B) Reduced inflow of fresh air, thereby limiting wildland fire growth and intensity. B) Reduced inflow of fresh air, thereby limiting wildland fire growth and intensity. C) Lowers surface wind speeds and fire spread rates except in mountainous or hilly terrain. C) Lowers surface wind speeds and fire spread rates except in mountainous or hilly terrain.

33 Weather balloons measure temperature, moisture, wind and atmospheric stability within a column of atmosphere above a point on the earths surface.

34 A combination of: stability and dryness A combination of: stability and dryness Indicates potential for large plume-dominated fire growth. Indicates potential for large plume-dominated fire growth. Haines Index

35 Haines Index Numbers The Potential for Large Plume Dominated Fire Growth The Potential for Large Plume Dominated Fire Growth 2 or 3 … Very low potential 4 … Low potential 5 … Moderate potential 6 … High potential

36 Haines Index The drier and more unstable the lower atmosphere, the HIGHER the Haines Index. The drier and more unstable the lower atmosphere, the HIGHER the Haines Index. Bottom Line… The more humid and stable the lower atmosphere, the LOWER the Haines Index. The more humid and stable the lower atmosphere, the LOWER the Haines Index.

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38 South Texas Fire Weather Section 3: Ventilation Basics

39 Two important weather elements that affect ventilation are: Mixing Height and Transport Wind

40 Maximum height in which rapid vertical mixing takes place in the atmosphere What is Mixing Height? Typically is the height where a temperature inversion occurs

41 Top of the Mixed Layer The convective mixing layer is normally capped by a layer of very stable air, which limits the rise of vertically developed clouds and smoke columns. The tops of tall smoke columns and cumulonimbus clouds are often seen spreading out at the top of the mixed layer.

42 Ventilation Basics Mixing Height Visual indicators of unstable conditions and higher mixing heights Clouds grow vertical and smoke rises to great heights Cumulus type clouds with large vertical depth Gusty winds Good visibilities Dust devils and firewhirls

43 Ventilation Basics Mixing Height Visual indicators of stable conditions and lower mixing heights Low clouds, overcast conditions Stratus type clouds Light/steady winds or calm winds Poor visibilities (fog or haze) Low smoke column

44 Ventilation Basics Mixing Height Unstable atmosphere and higher mixing heights typically occur during afternoon This is because the sun heats the earths surface during the day, which in turn heats the air just above the surface and causes it to rise The more heating that takes place, the more unstable the atmosphere becomes and the higher the smoke will rise

45 Ventilation Basics Mixing Height Stable atmosphere and lower mixing heights typically form overnight and in the early morning This is because a temperature inversion typically develops just off the surface overnight Smoke still in the air will drop back down to the surface

46 Dissipation of the Nighttime Inversion Early Morning Top of Surface Based Inversion Transport Wind During the early morning hours, fire intensity remains low with more smoke than open flame visible. Smoke dispersal also remains poor with the smoke column hanging low and spreading out in several directions as surfaces winds remain very light or calm. 20-ft wind Mid-Morning Transport Wind Top of the Inversion Rises as it Weakens 20-ft wind By mid to late morning, the inversion has weakened considerably with the air next to the ground becoming nearly as warm as the air above the inversion. Fire intensity slowly increases as light drainage winds add more oxygen to the fire. The smoke column also begins to tilt upward and smoke dispersal improves as the top of the inversion rises. Late Morning Transport Wind Surface Inversion Has Dissipated 20-foot Wind When the surface inversion breaks, fire intensity may suddenly increase with a rush of fresh oxygen. The smoke plume may also rise suddenly and become well formed. After rising high enough, the plume will begin to tilt in the direction of the transport wind, potentially carrying small embers and fire brands down wind from the fire.

47 What to Expect When Nighttime Inversions Break What to Expect When Nighttime Inversions Break 1. Winds often increase suddenly and possibly become gusty and erratic 1. Winds often increase suddenly and possibly become gusty and erratic 2. Air temperature increases suddenly 3. Relative humidity decreases suddenly.

48 Ventilation Basics Mixing Height Inversions behind shallow cold front can result in low mixing heights

49 Ventilation Basics Mixing Height Generally stagnant/stable conditions occur with mixing heights less than 1700 feet and prescribed burning should be reconsidered

50 Ventilation Basics Average wind between the surface and the mixing height What are Transport Winds? This is the wind that will help move the smoke out of an area an help disperse it into the atmosphere

51 Ventilation Basics Mixing Height Lighter winds will allow smoke to achieve higher heights, closer to mixing height Stronger winds will spread smoke out horizontally, at lower heights

52 Ventilation Basics Mixing Height Caution: If mixing heights are low and transport winds are low (less than 9 mph), then smoke may not disperse

53 Ventilation Basics Preferred Conditions Preferred stability for effective burn: neutral or slightly unstable Preferred Mixing Height: feet Preferred Transport Winds: 9-20 mph

54 South Texas Fire Weather Section 4: Critical Fire Weather Patterns

55 What is a Critical Fire Weather Pattern? Weather conditions which support extreme fire danger and/or fire behavior These weather conditions can cause widespread new ignitions or control problems with existing fires Pose a threat to life and property The NWS calls these conditions Red Flag Events Red Flag Warnings and Watches are issued by the NWS in anticipation of such events

56 Critical Fire Weather Patterns Red Flag Events Two critical fire weather parameters which can cause a Red Flag Event in South Texas are: Low Relative Humidity & Strong/Gusty Winds These are the conditions NWS Corpus Christi issues Red Flag Watches and Warnings for.

57 Critical Fire Weather Patterns Red Flag Criteria for South Texas Coastal Counties RH at or below 40% And 20-Foot winds sustained or frequently gusting at or above 25 mph Inland Counties RH at or below 30% And 20-Foot winds sustained or frequently gusting at or above 25 mph These conditions have been determined to be critical to wildfire potential and growth across South Texas

58 Critical Fire Weather Patterns Other Critical Fire Weather Patterns to watch out for Sudden changes in wind direction, speed and RH after cold front passages and sea-breeze boundary Fast moving low clouds just after daybreak (once morning inversion breaks those stronger winds will mix down to surface) Unexpected calm may indicate an approaching wind shift Thunderstorms above or close to the burn Dust devils or whirlwinds developing Upper level ridges (high pressure) result in a hot/dry patterns Stable/subsident, dry, windy area of a tropical cyclone circulation (typically on west side of systems, such as Rita in 2005)

59 South Texas Fire Weather Section 5: NWS Products and Services

60 1.Fire Weather Planning Forecasts 2.Fire Weather Watches 3.Red Flag Warnings 4.Spot Forecasts 5.Digital Service on the internet

61 NWS Products and Services Fire Weather Planning Forecast

62 NWS Products and Services Fire Weather Planning Forecast

63 Fire Weather Watch – alert land management agencies of the potential for a Red Flag event in the near future Reasonably confident Generally hours in advance of event Can be issued first 12 hours for dry lightning events Red Flag Warning – Red Flag event impending or occurring High degree of confidence First 24 hours NWS Products and Services

64 Red Flag Warning

65 South Texas Fire Weather Digital Services on the internet

66 South Texas Fire Weather Digital Services on the internet

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68 Spot Weather Forecast

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70 NWS Products and Services Spot Forecasts

71 South Texas Fire Weather Digital Services on the internet

72 South Texas Fire Weather Digital Services on the internet

73 South Texas Fire Weather Digital Services on the internet

74 South Texas Fire Weather Digital Services on the internet

75 South Texas Fire Weather Digital Services on the internet

76 Thank You! Questions? Jason Runyen x 1


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