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VAWS: Predicting pyroCumulonimbus (pyroCb) events through remote sensing resources in support of National Weather Service and firefighting agencies

April 12 @ 10:00 am to 11:00 am AKDT

Speakers: Arunas Kuciauskas and Andrew Lambert, Naval Research Lab Marine Meteorology Division

The recent warming and drying of the western US summertime climate has proliferated wildfire occurrences and areal extent where smoke plumes impact not only the rest of the US but the entire globe. Using primarily remote sensing tools, meteorologists are discovering that pyroCumulonimbus (pyroCb), i.e., fire-induced thunderstorms, are a common and hazardous phenomena within the more intense wildfire episodes. Multi-spectral sensors have identified the vertical extent of smoke within the pyroCb that can be forced via a convective chimney well into the stratosphere, thus adding pollution that can circle the globe and impact climate. From a firefighter’s perspective, pyroCbs can also provide erratic wind behavior near the surface, produce dry lightning, and even generate tornados.

The NOAA Unique Combined Atmospheric Processing System (NUCAPS) algorithm has shown success in profiling and predicting severe convective weather across CONUS, Canada, and Alaska. As part of a three year, NOAAfunded Fire and Smoke Initiative project, the Naval Research Laboratory, Marine Meteorology Division (NRL-MMD) is evaluating NUCAPS skill in profiling pyroCbs. This presentation will examine the efficacy of NUCAPS-derived near-surface lapse rate and vapor pressure deficit, mid-troposphere moisture content, and instability parameters to facilitate early warning of pyroCb development. NRL-MMD is developing fire pixel clustering and NUCAPS filtering techniques to focus on specific wildfire events that are likely to produce pyroCb activity. The overarching objective is to provide weather forecasters and firefighting agencies with a potentially invaluable resource related to hazards ensuing from convective cloud development over active wildfires.