Australian scientists develop new tools to predict bushfire behaviour

Australian scientists develop new tools to predict bushfire behaviour

15 October 2013

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Australia — Australian scientists have developed new software tools to give fire-fighting agencies a more accurate view of where and how quickly a bushfire may spread.

Amicus has been created by the CSIRO and draws on 60 years of research to predict the behaviour of bushfires.

The modelling technology analyses data from field experiments and research, as well as current and forecast weather conditions, fuel loads, moisture, vegetation and topography.

Principal scientist Jim Gould says it is a powerful decision-making tool that will help save lives and property.

“To help predict fires, the behaviour, the spread, intensity and flame heights so they can make better decisions on fires or various days with varying weather and fuel conditions,” he said.

Mr Gould says it is the first time critical research information and computer modelling have been brought together in an easy-to-use software interface.

“A lot of the traditional tools are tables, slide rules and spreadsheets and this brings it all into a software program,” he said.

“It is taking the modern technology of computing science and recent information on fire behaviour and bringing the two things together to make it more accessible to a number of agencies across Australia.”

The software will run on smartphones, tablets and computers and will eventually be hosted on a website.

“It will allow the people that are closer to the fire ground to make some quick estimates about what kind of fire they should expect so they can ensure the safety of their firefighters and give better warning to the local people,” he said.

Amicus is being demonstrated for the first time at the CSIRO Bushfire Behaviour Symposium underway in Canberra.

The software has been dubbed the “wiki” for fire scientists, as it will be part of a new centralised database called the National Fire Behaviour Knowledge Base.

“Not only will it be able to do the prediction of fires, but we’ll have a large database in the background where the user can compare the predictions of the fires that they think they’re going to have on that day with other historical events,” he said.

“In the future we’ll be able to add to it to keep the historical records of major events to improve the training and planning of fires.”

Amicus is expected to be released early next year.

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