Simulation of a Large Wildfire in a Coupled Fire-Atmosphere Model

Filippi, Jean-Baptiste ; Bosseur, Frédéric ; Mari, Céline ; Lac, Christine

Année de publication
<p align=justify>The Aullene fire devastated more than 3000 ha of Mediterranean maquis and pine forest in July 2009. The simulation of combustion processes, as well as atmospheric dynamics represents a challenge for such scenarios because of the various involved scales, from the scale of the individual flames to the larger regional scale. A coupled approach between the Meso-NH (Meso-scale Non-Hydrostatic) atmospheric model running in LES (Large Eddy Simulation) mode and the ForeFire fire spread model is proposed for predicting fine- to large-scale effects of this extreme wildfire, showing that such simulation is possible in a reasonable time using current supercomputers. The coupling involves the surface wind to drive the fire, while heat from combustion and water vapor fluxes are injected into the atmosphere at each atmospheric time step. To be representative of the phenomenon, a sub-meter resolution was used for the simulation of the fire front, while atmospheric simulations were performed with nested grids from 2400-m to 50-m resolution. Simulations were run with or without feedback from the fire to the atmospheric model, or without coupling from the atmosphere to the fire. In the two-way mode, the burnt area was reproduced with a good degree of realism at the local scale, where an acceleration in the valley wind and over sloping terrain pushed the fire line to locations in accordance with fire passing point observations. At the regional scale, the simulated fire plume compares well with the satellite image. The study explores the strong fire-atmosphere interactions leading to intense convective updrafts extending above the boundary layer, significant downdrafts behind the fire line in the upper plume, and horizontal wind speeds feeding strong inflow into the base of the convective updrafts. The fire-induced dynamics is induced by strong near-surface sensible heat fluxes reaching maximum values of 240 kW m − 2 . The dynamical production of turbulent kinetic energy in the plume fire is larger in magnitude than the buoyancy contribution, partly due to the sheared initial environment, which promotes larger shear generation and to the shear induced by the updraft itself. The turbulence associated with the fire front is characterized by a quasi-isotropic behavior. The most active part of the Aullene fire lasted 10 h, while 9 h of computation time were required for the 24 million grid points on 900 computer cores.</p>
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