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Publication Title

Agricultural and Forest Meteorology






Fire-induced turbulence and the feedback into the fire, following ambient changes, differ for forested (sub-canopy) and grassland environments. Here, we synthesize observations from multiple experimental surface fires: two sub-canopy backing fires, one sub-canopy heading fire, and a grassland heading fire. We identify and compare the most essential coherent structures and processes of each case from the turbulent momentum fluxes and turbulent kinetic energy (TKE) budget terms. In the sub-canopy burns, turbulent eddies are strongest near the canopy top: high streamwise turbulent flux accompanies low cross-stream turbulent flux and vice versa. In the grassland fire, both streamwise and cross-stream eddies strengthen simultaneously until a certain height, informing a vertical length scale for the fire-influence. Moreover, the forward sweep from streamwise eddies assists in the fire spread by pushing hot gases towards unburnt fuel. In the sub-canopy fires, shear production and buoyancy production are more substantial near the canopy top for more intense fires, while their magnitudes decrease with decreasing fire intensity. At mid-canopy-height scales, buoyancy production dominates shear production, becoming the key mechanism for vertical transport of TKE. In the grassland fire, shear production dominates buoyancy production near the surface and is insignificant beyond a certain height relative to the flame length, while buoyancy production increases with height, becoming substantial further away from the surface. Turbulent transport terms are also active in both environments. For intense sub-canopy fires, there is a loss in TKE due to its expulsion to the boundary layer aloft via the transport term, compensated by a reversal process: TKE influx via the transport term. In the grassland fire, the transport term mimics this behavior until a certain height. The insights into the relative significance of the respective turbulent fluxes and TKE budget terms in each environment can help simplify the complex system of equations governing fire physics.

Funding Number


Funding Sponsor

National Science Foundation


Comparison between surface-fire environments, Heading and backing fires, Synthesis, Turbulent kinetic energy budget, Turbulent momentum fluxes

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Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License.


Meteorology and Climate Science