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Northern Research Station
One Gifford Pinchot Drive
Madison, WI 53726
(608) 231-9318
(608) 231-9544 TTY/TDD

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Sustaining Forests

Fuels and Fire Behavior in Eastern Hardwoods

Research Issue

[image:]   Burned area determined from multiple infrared heat release images taken from an aircraft during a prescribed fire in the Ohio Hills.An ability to predict fuel loads and fire behavior are needed to improve prescriptions for prescribed fire and answer questions about smoke emissions and transport and fire effects on flora and fauna.  Our fuels and fire behavior research seeks to develop process-based (mechanistic) approaches to predicting fuel characteristics and fire behavior, with particular focus on hardwoods in Appalachian topography.  Areas of emphasis have been fuel production and decomposition through seasons and across years, topographic variability in fuel moisture, and fire behavior monitoring.           

Our Research

In our Fuel Consumption and Smoke Emissions project, we are using a combination of infrared (IR) imaging from fixed-wing aircraft (remote sensing) and in-fire monitoring to characterize fire heat release and fuel consumption from prescribed burns in Ohio and Kentucky.  In our Calibrating Thermocouples for Monitoring Fire Behavior project, we have characterized the response of commonly used thermocouple probes to surface fires in an effort to increase their usefulness for fire behavior and effects applications.  The Coupled Hydrology and Ecosystem Process Modeling project provides fuel and fuel moisture inputs to fire behavior and effects models.

Expected Outcomes

Climate-change simulation models require an ability to link forest conditions to fuels, fuels to fire behavior, and fire behavior to fire effects. To improve these linkages, we are developing a fire module for the Regional Hydroecological Simulation System (RHESSys), a coupled hydrology and ecosystem process model.

Validating fire models and predicting effects requires high quality measurements of fire spread and heat release. We are devleoping airborne infrared technology to map fire heat release and spread at unprecedented detail (~1 m) and spatial extent (landscapes). With these data, fuel consumption is being estimated for prescribed burns in Ohio, Kentucky, Florida, and Georgia.

Research Results

Annual variation in leaf production in the Ohio Hills.

Transmission of solar radiation through forest canopies.

Ohio and Kentucky Smoke Management Workshops.

Bova, A. S., Dickinson, M. B.  2008.  Beyond “fire temperatures”:  calibrating thermocouple probes and modeling their response to surface fires in hardwood fuels.  Canadian Journal of Forest Research.

Thermocouple probe calibration equations for surface fire monitoring and associated protocol and MathCad physical model.


Research Participants

Principal Investigator

Research Partners

  • Anthony S. Bova, USDA Forest Service - Northern Research Station Physical Scientist
  • Larry Band, University of North Carolina, Geography Department - Voit Gilmore Distinguished Professor
  • Kim J. Brown, Franklin Park Conservatory
  • Valerie L. Young, Ohio University, Chemical Engineering Department - Associate Professor
  • Michael Bowden, Ohio Department of Natural Resources, Division of Forestry – Fire Program Administrator
  • Robert L. Kremens, Rochester Institute of Technology, Center for Imaging Science - Senior Research Scientist
  • Ann Acheson, USDA-Forest Service - National Forest System (WO), Wildlife, Fish & Rare Plants, Programs– Air Program Leader
  • Cindy Huber, USDA-Forest Service National Forest System - Southern Region - Air Quality Specialist

Last Modified: 02/22/2010