Document Type


Publication Date


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Journal of Combustion






sea breeze reversal, fire whirl


Atmospheric Sciences | Climate


This observational study documented the atmospheric environment of a prescribed fire conducted in a narrow valley when a small fire whirl developed during a mesoscale wind reversal. Based on analysis of in situ meteorological measurements, it is hypothesized that the fire whirl formed due to the presence of strong vertical wind shear caused by the interaction of a sea breeze front with a weaker up-valley wind. Vorticity generated by the interaction of the wind shear and the fire front was estimated to be ~0.2 s−1. Peak turbulence kinetic energy was caused by the wind shear rather than the buoyancy generated by the fire front. It was also found that the convective Froude number itself may not be sufficient for fire whirl prediction since it is less relevant to the near-surface boundary-layer turbulence generated by environmental wind shear. Observations from this case study indicate that even low-intensity prescribed fires can result in the formation of fire whirls due to mesoscale changes in the ambient atmospheric environment.


This article was originally published in the Journal of Combustion, 2011, and can be found online at the following link: SJSU users: use the following link to login and access the article via SJSU databases Copyright © 2011 Daisuke Seto and Craig B. Clements. This is an open access article distributed under the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.

Creative Commons License

Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 License.