Computer science has enabled scientists to develop a mathematical method to predict and estimate the effects of wildfires just like they can measure, understand, estimate, and predict normal weather and natural disasters such as earthquakes, hurricanes and tornadoes.
Wildfire modeling is a computer simulation that helps scientists to understand fire behaviour so people can find ways to live relatively safely in areas at high risk to wildfire outbreaks.
They attempt to recreate a typical fire with computer simulation, showing the basic, generic structure of a typical outbreak and estimates the shape, speed at which it spreads, and how much heat will be generated.
Wildfires are natural occurrences that are both a danger and a benefit to people and the environment. After a fire, a forest is replaced with fewer, healthier trees and the buildup of fuel is reduced, thereby minimizing the possibility of even bigger fires.
Computer modeling makes it possible to predict where the fire will go, therefore increasing the safety of the firefighters, who can appropriately place teams and equipment to allow for maximum control and minimum damage. The public is also safer, as high risk areas can be warned and evacuated in enough time to prevent devastation of these communities.
It’s also important to predict the fire’s environmental effect. The models can include details such as whether the fire will spread from the surface to the canopy of the forest, and the ecological or hydrological effects. Fires create regional haze, and some models produce an estimate of the amount and rate of smoke generated.
One method of predicting fires is called Empirical Modeling, and is based on past experiences. Researchers noticed that wildfires are shaped the same anywhere in the world, and this method of modeling draws on this and intuition from studying past fires to create scenarios close to what is actually happening, which allows them to predict what the effects will be. They also use physical models to re-create possible atmospheric conditions and the effects. These can involve wind tunnels, models that mimic various conditions of the atmosphere and its interaction with heat generated from massive fires, and even real life models of actual fires, planned or unplanned.
Wildfires are a significant danger to urban areas close to wilderness, and are becoming a more serious concern as cities and towns spread into higher risk areas. Wildfire modeling gives scientists a valuable tool in their effort to keep the public and firefighters safe from the inevitable and uncontrollable fires that are valuable to the health of our forests and ecosystems.