Scientists & Staff

Joseph J. (Jay) Charney

Research Meteorologist
3101 Discovery Dr., Ste. F
Lansing, MI, 48910
Phone: 517-884-8052

Contact Joseph J. (Jay) Charney

Current Research

I study the interactions between wildland fires and the overlying atmosphere, and investigate the potential for meteorological conditions to influence fire behavior and smoke dispersion. I employ atmospheric numerical weather prediction models to assess and predict the weather conditions that could impact the evolution of a wildland fire.

Research Interests

My primary research interest involves the development of tools and diagnostics that enable fire weather forecasters and fire managers to anticipate when fire-atmosphere interactions can impact the evolution of a wildland fire. I use mesoscale numerical weather prediction models to reproduce the meteorological conditions associated with historical fires and attempt to associate changes in fire behavior with meteorological conditions at the ground and aloft.

I work with coupled fire-atmosphere models that explicitly resolve the combustion process, the impact of combustion on the atmosphere above a fire, and feedbacks to the fire from the atmosphere. I attempt to validate these models using observations of fire behavior from instrumented prescribed burns and from wildfires. The ultimate goal of this research is to develop the next generation of fire behavior and fire danger models using state-of-the-science numerical tools. The models can then be employed by fire weather forecasters and fire managers to aide in decision-making that is required to safely carry out prescribed burns and to fight wildfires.

I employ mesoscale numerical prediction models to investigate the dispersion of smoke from wildland fires.

Why This Research is Important

This research is working toward an improved understanding of fire-atmosphere interactions that will help produce the next generation of fire-weather and fire behavior products. These products are used by fire weather meteorologists, fire managers, and smoke managers to allow them to make more informed decisions that can save lives and property and can prevent illness and respiratory distress.


  • The Pennsylvania State University, Ph.D. Meteorology, 1997
  • University of Maryland, M.S. Meteorology, 1992
  • The Pennsylvania State University, B.S. Physics, 1990

Professional Organizations

  • Southern Michigan Prescribed Fire Council
  • International Association of Wildland Fire

Featured Publications & Products

Publications & Products

National Research Highlights

A Hot-Dry-Windy analysis using
historical weather data for the Pagami Creek Fire (Minnesota, 2011) showing
very high HDW values for the day when the fire spread was greatest.

Fire Weather Prediction Tool Modernizes Science Behind Forecasts

Year: 2018

Fire weather forecasters need accurate and proven tools to help them anticipate when weather conditions can make wildfires dangerous for fire managers. USDA Forest Service scientists are expanding the options with the development of the Hot-Dry-Windy Index (HDW), a new fire-weather prediction tool based on the key atmospheric variables that affect wildland fire: temperature, moisture, and wind.

Dustin Smith takes field weather observations during a 2010 prescribed burn in Idaho.

The Hot-Dry-Windy Index improves fire weather forecasting

Year: 2018

A new tool helps fire managers anticipate when wildfires could become erratic or dangerous.

Example of prescribed fire adjacent to a forest gap in the New Jersey Pine Barrens. Warren E. Heilman, U.S. Department of Agriculture Forest Service.

The Influence of Forest Gaps on Fire-Atmosphere Interactions

Year: 2016

Model simulations have been used to examine how gaps in forest stands can affect the response of the atmosphere to low-intensity wildland fires occurring in those stands. The study provides insight into potential smoke dispersion and fire behavior during low-intensity prescribed fires in forested environments.

Monthly climatology of Northeastern United States wildfires for the Appalacian Mountains (region 1, black) and the coastal plain (region 2, grey). Forest Service

Scientists Develop Wildfire Weather Climatology for the Northeastern United States

Year: 2012

Knowing where and why large wildfires have occurred in the past can help weather forecasters and fire managers predict future events with greater accuracy

Instrumented towers set up within and in the vicinity of prescribed fires in the New Jersey Pine Barrens provide critical meteorological and air quality data for validating smoke prediction tools.  Nicholas Skowronski, Forest Service

Fireflux Experiments Improve Safety of Prescribed Burns in the New Jersey Pine Barrens

Year: 2011

Predicting the effects of smoke from low-intensity prescribed fires on local air-quality is being made easier by new tools developed by Forest Service scientists. These tools are now being validated through data collected from fuels, meteorological, and air quality monitoring networks set up near and within prescribed fires in the New Jersey Pine Barrens. The tools and observational data from this project help fire and forest managers in planning for prescribed burns to minimize adverse air-quality impacts in the vicinity of the burns.

Last modified: Friday, January 21, 2022