GCS CLIENT PROFILES
WindNinja, U.S.F.S. Fire Sciences Lab

WindNinja, U.S.F.S. Fire Sciences Lab

Geospatial modelling, custom solution, and analysis tools for analyzing wind's effects on wildfire spread and where firefighting will be most effective.

Problem

Determining and predicting fine scale variability in wind presents a unique challenge to fire management teams that are charged with assessing fire intensity, growth, and potential when determining optimum fire management options.

Solution

The USFS Rocky Mountain Research Station contracted GCS to support and enhance WindNinja. WindNinja is a program that computes spatially varying wind fields for wildland fire application. It was developed to quickly (less than 1 minute) simulate terrain effects on wind flow for time-sensitive emergency response applications, such as predicting where fires will spread and therefore where fire management options may be placed for highest effectiveness. It requires elevation data for the modeling area (an AS CII Raster DEM file, FARSITE landscape file, GeoTiff, or ERDAS Imagine file), a domain-mean initial wind speed and direction, and dominant vegetation in the area. A diurnal slope flow model can be turned on or off. Outputs of the model are AS CII Raster grids of wind speed and direction (for use in spatial fire behavior models like FARSITE and FlamMap), a GIS shapefile (for plotting wind vectors in GIS), and a .kmz file (for viewing in Google Earth). WindNinja is typically run on domain sizes up to 50 km by 50 km at resolutions around 100 meters. Modifications GCS made to the program include:

  • Developing a system for initializing flow calculation from the National
  • Weather Service National Digital Forecast Database.
  • Updating the model to allow user-selectable boundary layer profile.
  • Relaxing the assumption of neutral stability.
  • Adding the option for automatic import of digital elevation and vegetation land cover data.