Publication Date

Summer 2020

Degree Type

Thesis

Degree Name

Master of Science (MS)

Department

Meteorology

Advisor

Craig B. Clements

Keywords

Downslope Winstorm, Fire Weather, Mountain Meteorology, Observations, Unmanned Aerial Systems, WRF

Subject Areas

Meteorology; Atmospheric sciences

Abstract

The need for a better understanding of wildfires and how the atmosphere affects them provided the motivation for this work. The November 2018 Camp Fire quickly became the deadliest and most destructive wildfire in California history. In chapter 1, we investigate the contribution of meteorological conditions and a downslope windstorm event that occurred during the 2018 Camp Fire. Results show that this event was associated with mid-level and surface synoptic scale processes which created conditions favorable for a North wind event. Sustained surface winds between 3–6 m s-1 were observed with gusts of over 25 m s-1. The meteorological conditions of the event were well forecasted, and the severity of the fire was not surprising given the fire danger potential for that day. The usage of small unmanned aircraft systems (sUAS), may help to provide new observations in extreme environments such as the Camp Fire. The Fire and Smoke Model Evaluation Experiment offered a unique opportunity of a large controlled wildfire, which allowed measurements that cannot generally be taken during an active wildfire. This study highlights the use of DJI Matrice 200 that was equipped with a TriSonica Mini Wind and Weather station sonic anemometer in order to sample the fire environment in an experimental and controlled setting. The system was tested against an RM-Young 81000 sonic anemometer mounted at 6 and 2 m AGL to assess any bias in the sUAS platform. Preliminary data show that this system can be useful for taking vertical profiles, in addition to being used in place of tower measurements.

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