Numerical simulations of grass fires using a coupled atmosphere-fire model: Basic fire behavior and dependence on wind speed

Rodman R. Linn, P. Cunningham

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

147 Citations (Scopus)


Numerical simulations using a fire model, FIRETEC, coupled to an atmospheric dynamics model, HIGRAD, are examined to investigate several fundamental aspects of fire behavior in grasslands, and specifically the dependence of this behavior on the ambient atmospheric winds and on the initial length of the fire line. The FIRETEC model is based on a multi-phase transport approach, and incorporates representations of the physical processes that govern wildfires, such as combustion and radiative and convective heat exchange. Results from the coupled model show that the forward spread of the simulated fires increases with increasing ambient wind speed, and the spread rates are consistent with those observed in field experiments of grass fires; however, the forward spread also depends significantly on the initial length of the fire line, and for a given ambient wind speed the spread rate for long (100 m) lines is greater than that for short (16 m) lines. The spread of the simulated fires in the lateral direction also depends on the ambient wind speed and the length of the fire line, and a possible explanation for this effect is given. For weak ambient winds, the shape of the fire perimeter is dramatically different from that seen with higher wind speeds. The shape of the fire perimeter is also shown to depend on the initial length of the fire line. These differences in fire behavior are attributed to the differences in the nature of the coupled atmosphere-fire interactions among these cases, and are described in terms of the complex interplay between radiative and convective heat transfer. Copyright 2005 by the American Geophysical Union.
Original languageEnglish
JournalJournal of Geophysical Research: Atmospheres
Issue number13
Early online date6 Jul 2005
Publication statusPublished - 16 Jul 2005

Bibliographical note

Cited By :69

Export Date: 16 May 2017

Correspondence Address: Linn, R.R.; Earth and Environmental Sciences Division, Los Alamos National Laboratory, Los Alamos, NM, United States; email:

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  • Computer simulation
  • Fires
  • Heat convection
  • Mathematical models
  • Numerical analysis
  • Wind effects
  • atmospheric modeling
  • combustion
  • grassland
  • heat transfer
  • numerical method
  • radiative forcing
  • thermal convection
  • wildfire
  • wind velocity


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