"Not all fires abide by the rules," says Meteorologist Tim Mathewson.
In the midst of fighting a wildfire, predicting the future is a matter of tracking invisible forces: gust fronts, storms, air columns. While firefighters battle the flames on the ground, fire experts look for signs that the weather or the wildfire might shift. They follow storm tracks, watch weather models and study the fire’s path.
Most models focus on either weather or fire. Now, thanks to Janice Coen, a fire weather and behavior researcher at Boulder, Colorado’s National Center for Atmospheric Research, a new model considers how weather and fire feed each other and are affected by terrain variations to small for traditional models. This new model could help fire forecasters predict how a fire will behave, as well as inform fire prevention efforts like prescribed burns.