Observing The Dynamics Of Wildland Grass Fires: FireFlux -A Field Validation Experiment
Grass fires, although not as intense as forest fires, present a major threat to life and property during periods of drought in the Great Plains of the United States. Recently, major wildland grass fires in Texas burned nearly 1.6 million acres and destroyed over 730 homes and 1320 other buildings. The fires resulted in the death of 19 people, an estimated loss of 10,000 head of livestock, and more than $628 million in damage, making the 2005/06 fire season the worst on record for the state of Texas. As an aid to fire management, various models have been developed to describe fire behavior. However, these models strongly emphasize fuels and fail to adequately consider the role of convective dynamics within the atmosphere and its interaction with the fire due to the lack of observational data. To fill this gap, an intensive field measurement campaign called FireFlux was conducted during February 2006 near Houston, Texas. The campaign employed a variety of instrument platforms to collect turbulence data at multiple levels within and immediately downwind of a 155 acre tall-grass prairie burn unit. This paper presents some first-time observations of atmospheric turbulent structures/fluxes associated with intense grass fires and provides a basis to further our understanding of the dynamics of grass fires and their interactions with the atmosphere.