Scientists & Staff

Warren E. Heilman

Research Meteorologist, Emeritus
3101 Discovery Dr., Ste. F
Lansing, MI, 48910
Phone: 517-884-8063

Contact Warren E. Heilman

Current Research

My current research is focused on (1) developing new predictive tools for fire-weather, fire behavior, and air quality in support of the Forest Service's Fire and Fuels R&D Strategy, (2) examining fire-fuel-atmosphere interactions, turbulence regimes, and local dispersion of smoke during wildland fire events, and (3) examining the effects of climate variability and landscape change on fire-weather patterns over the U.S.

Research Interests

In support of the Forest Service's Fire and Fuels R&D Strategy and the new Northern Station's priority research themes, my future research ideas include an examination of
  1. atmospheric turbulence processes involved in extreme fire behavior,
  2. the dynamics of pollutant formation and transport in the vicinity of wildland and prescribed fires, and
  3. the interacting effects of regional climate change/variability, landscape change, and pollutant emissions on forest health in the Great Lakes region.

Past Research

  1. Remote Sensing of Canopy Temperatures
  2. Atmospheric Turbulence Modeling over Complex Terrain and Vegetated Surfaces
  3. Integration of Improved Deposition Velocity, Aerosol Coagulation, and Intefacial Volume Chemical Flux Parameterizations within EPA's Air Quality Models
  4. Synoptic Circulation, Temperature, and Moisture Patterns Associated with Wildland Fires
  5. Atmospheric Boundary-Layer Dynamics in the Vicinity of Wildland Fires
  6. Climate and Air Quality Conditions in the Ozark-Ouachita Highlands Region of Southern Missouri, Arkansas, and Eastern Oklahoma
  7. Development of Online Climate Variability and Atmospheric-Related Disturbance Information Systems for Natural Resource Managers
  8. Impacts of Greenhouse Gases on Forest Microclimates
  9. Ozone Pollution in the North Central and Northeastern U.S.: Current and Future Landscape Change Impacts on Ozone Risk to Forests

Why This Research is Important

This research is important because it
  1. increases our fundamental understanding of how the atmosphere interacts with forest and rangeland ecosystems,
  2. increases our understanding of those atmospheric processes that impact disturbance frequency and severity, and
  3. lays the foundation for the development of new predictive tools to anticipate weather and climate-related disturbances and their effects on ecosystem health and human health and safety.


  • Iowa State University, Ph.D. Meteorology, 1988
  • Iowa State University, M.S. Meteorology, 1984
  • South Dakota State University, B.S. Physics, 1979

Professional Experience

  • Supervisory Research Meteorologist, USDA Forest Service, Northern Research Station 2009 - Current
  • Research Meteorologist, USDA Forest Service, Northern Research Station 2007 - 2009
  • Project Leader/Research Meteorologist, USDA Forest Service, North Central Research Station 1993 - 2007
  • Acting Project Leader/Research Meteorologist, USDA Forest Service, North Central Research Station 1992 - 1993
  • Research Meteorologist, USDA Forest Service, North Central Research Station 1990 - 1992
  • Research Scientist, Computer Sciences Corporation 1988 - 1989
  • Graduate Research Assistant, Department of Geological and Atmospheric Sciences, Iowa State University 1985 - 1988
  • Instructor, Department of Geological and Atmospheric Sciences, Iowa State University 1984 - 1985
  • Graduate Research and Teaching Assistant, Department of Geological and Atmospheric Sciences, Iowa State University 1981 - 1984
  • Graduate Teaching Assistant, Department of Physics, Iowa State University 1980 - 1981
  • Research Assistant, Radiological and Environmental Research Division, Argonne National Laboratory 1980 - 1980
  • Research Assistant, Remote Sensing Institute, South Dakota State University 1978 - 1980
  • Research Assistant, Department of Physics, South Dakota State University 1979 - 1979

Professional Organizations

  • American Geophysical Union (2009 - Current)
  • International Association of Wildland Fire (2007 - Current)
  • American Meteorological Society (1984 - Current)
  • Sigma Pi Sigma (Society of Physics Students) (1978 - Current)
  • National Fire Protection Association (1992 - 1997)

Featured Publications & Products

Publications & Products

Other Publications

  • Heilman, James L.; Heilman, Warren E.; Moore, Donald G.; 1981. Remote sensing of canopy temperature at incomplete cover. Agronomy Journal 73: 403-406.
  • Sheih, Ching M.; Heilman, Warren E.; 1981. Preliminary investigations of pollutant distribution in a two-dimensional street canyon. Fifth Symposium on Turbulence, Diffusion, and Air Pollution, 9-13 March 1981, Atlanta, GA. American Meteorological Society. pp. 192-193.
  • Heilman, James L.; Heilman, Warren E.; Moore, Donald G.; 1982. Evaluating the crop coefficient using spectral reflectance. Agronomy Journal 74: 967-971.
  • Heilman, Warren E.; 1984. A one-dimensional numerical simulation of the boundary-layer features over a uniformly vegetated sloping surface. Masters Thesis, Iowa State University. 236 p.
  • Heilman, Warren E.; Dobosy, Ronald; 1985. A nocturnal atmospheric drainage flow simulation investigating the application of one-dimensional modeling and current turbulence schemes. Journal of Climate and Applied Meteorology 24: 924-936.
  • Heilman, Warren E.; 1986. Using PCDS to study the influence of UV flux variation on the middle atmosphere. Proceedings of the Second Pilot Climate Data System Workshop, 29-30 January 1986, Greenbelt, MD. NASA Conference Publication 2430, NASA/Goddard Space Flight Center, Greenbelt, MD. pp. 41-53.
  • Heilman, Warren E.; 1988. Two-dimensional numerical simulations of the turbulence characteristics over Rattlesnake Mountain during stable and unstable conditions. Ph.D. Dissertation, Iowa State University. 135 p.
  • Young, J. O., Aissa, M.; Boehm, T. L.; Coats, C. J.; Eichinger, J. R.; Grimes, D. J.; Hallyburton, S. W.; Heilman, W. E.; Olerud, D. T.; Roselle, S. J.; Van Meter, A. R.; Wayland R. A.; Pierce, T. E.; 1989. Development of the Regional Oxidant Model Version 2.1. Atmospheric Research and Exposure Assessment Laboratory, U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, Research Triangle Park, North Carolina. 55 p.
  • Pierce, T. E.; Schere, K. L.;Doll, D. C.; Heilman, W. E.; 1990. Evaluation of the Regional Oxidant Model (Version 2.1) using ambient and diagnostic simulations. Atmospheric Research and Exposure Assessment Laboratory, U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, Research Triangle Park, North Carolina. 6 p.
  • Heilman, Warren E.; Fast, Jerome D.; 1991. Two-dimensional numerical simulations of atmospheric conditions near lines of extreme surface heating. Proceedings of the 11th Conference on Fire and Forest Meteorology, 16-19 April 1991, Missoula, MT. Society of American Foresters, Bethesda, MD. pp. 541-548.

National Research Highlights

Favorable fire behavior in mixed conifer and brush during a burn operation near Jerseydale;
Ferguson Fire, Sierra NF, CA, 2018.

Understanding Wind Gusts During Fire can Help Fire and Smoke Managers

Year: 2018

Wind fields in the vicinity of wildland fires can be highly variable or turbulent, exhibiting significant gusts that can lead to erratic fire behavior and enhanced mixing of smoke into the atmosphere. Northern Research Station scientists are examining the properties of turbulent circulations in forested wildland fire environments to ultimately improve predictive tools for fire and smoke management.

Figure 1. Anomalous numbers of warm- and cold-season extreme precipitation events with different durations typically occurring during El Nino episodes. The dotted areas indicate statistically significant anomalies.
Figure 2.  Same as Figure 1 except for El Nino Modoki episodes. Xindi Bian, USDA Forest Service

El Niño and El Niño Modoki impacts on extreme precipitation in the U.S.

Year: 2017

Many areas of the U.S. are vulnerable to socioeconomic disruptions caused by extreme precipitation and resulting floods, and there has been an increasing trend in both the frequency and particularly the intensity of extreme precipitation. Forest Service research is helping to identify the different extreme precipitation occurrence patterns resulting from episodes of eastern Pacific Ocean warming (El Niño) and central Pacific Ocean warming (El Niño Modoki).

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.

Period of high fire-induced atmospheric turbulence observed during a prescribed fire conducted in the New Jersey Pine Barrens on 20 March 2011. USDA Forest Service

Unraveling the Mysteries of Fire-induced Weather

Year: 2015

Observational data and model simulations have been used by Forest Service scientists and their partners to examine turbulent circulations in the vicinity of wildland fires in forested and complex terrain environments. The research results improves scientists’ understanding of how fire-induced weather can affect fire behavior and smoke dispersion.

Potential changes in the average length (days: black contours) of weather events that are conducive to extreme fire behavior under projected future climate conditions compared to current climate conditions, as quantified by Haines Index values equal to 5 or 6.  Color shading indicates changes in standard deviation. USDA Forest Service

Potential Effects of Regional Climate Change on Fire Weather in the U.S.

Year: 2014

Regional climate change has the potential to alter the frequency of extreme and erratic wildfires in the United States. Regional climate model projections of future climate conditions in different regions of the U.S. can to identify areas where the atmospheric environment may be more or less conducive to extreme fire behavior.

Smoke from a low-intensity prescribed fire conducted in the New Jersey Pine Barrens on 6 March 2012. Forest Service research looks at the impact on a local highway. Warren Heilman, USDA Forest Service

Modeling Tool Improves Smoke Dispersion Predictions During Low-Intensity Fires

Year: 2013

Forest Service scientists developed a new modeling tool to improve predictions of local smoke transport during low-intensity wildland fires in forested environments. This modeling tool will help fire and forest managers in planning for prescribed fires to minimize adverse air-quality effects on residents and firefighters near wildfires.

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.

Fire spread and smoke transport through forest vegetation, as shown in this photograph of a prescribed burn in the New Jersey Pine Barrens, can be influenced by atmospheric turbulence (wind gusts). Forest Service

Advancing Understanding of Atmospheric Interactions with Wildfires

Year: 2010

Through partnerships with San Jose State University, Michigan State University, and the Silas Little Experimental Forest, modeling and experimental research has led to an improved understanding of the role that air turbulence can play in affecting wildfires and smoke in different regions of the U.S.

Last modified: Monday, October 31, 2022