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, 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 coupled atmosphere-fire model WRF-SFIRE. The simulation of the experimental burn shows that WRF-SFIRE is capable of providing realistic head fire rate-of-spread and the vertical temperature structure of the fire plume, and, up to 10 m above ground level, fire-induced surface flow and vertical velocities within the plume. The model captured the changes in wind speed and direction before, during, and after fire front passage, along with arrival times of wind speed, temperature, and updraft maximae, at the two instrumented flux towers used in FireFlux. The model overestimated vertical velocities and underestimated horizontal wind speeds measured at tower heights above the 10 m, and it is hypothesized that the limited model resolution over estimated the fire front depth, leading to too high a heat release and, subsequently, too strong an updraft. However, on the whole, WRF-SFIRE fire plume behavior is consistent with the interpretation of FireFlux observations. The study suggests optimal experimental pre-planning, design, and execution of future field campaigns that are needed for further coupled atmosphere-fire model development and evaluation.