Experts closer to predicting fire behaviour

Experts closer to predicting fire behaviour

27 January 2010

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Australia — Australian scientists say they are closer to being able to forecast how severe bushfires will behave.

Meteorologist Michael Reeder is developing models that map how bushfires interact with weather and the atmosphere.

He says the models could help firefighters attack bushfires more effectively.

But he says there is still some way to go before scientists will be able to predict fire behaviour the way they forecast the weather.

“There are some really big technical problems in doing that, for example there are big technical problems in knowing the weather conditions at the time the fire starts,” he said.

“But we are at the stage that we can make a lot of progress in forecasting the spread of the fire, the behaviour of the fire, what’s going to happen.”

Mr Reeder says once the models are refined they will be a valuable tool.

“[The technology] has a huge potential for firefighters and also strategic planning, [things such as knowing] where will you put your resources, how will you tackle the fire,” he said.

“I think that for policy-makers… these sort of tools can be used for assessing risk.

“Down the track, when we’ve overcome some of those technical difficulties, I think they’ll become hugely valuable.”

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