DOI: 10.1029/2023gl104193 ISSN:

Sensitivity of Pyrocumulus Convection to Tree Mortality During the 2020 Creek Fire in California

Jungmin M. Lee, Jeffrey D. Mirocha, Neil P. Lareau, Taylor Whitney, Wing To, Adam Kochanski, William Lassman
  • General Earth and Planetary Sciences
  • Geophysics


This study investigated the sensitivity of pyrocumulonimbus (PyroCb) induced by the California Creek fire of 2020 to the amount and type of surface fuels, within the WRF‐SFIRE modeling system. Satellite data were used to derive fire arrival times to constrain fire progression, and to augment the fuel characterization with better estimates of combustible vegetation accounting for tree mortality. Machine learning was employed to classify standing dead vegetation from aerial imagery, which was then added as a custom fuel class along with the standard Anderson fuel categories. Simulations using this new fuel class produced a larger and more vigorous PyroCb than the control run, however, still under‐predicted the cloud top. Additional augmentation of fuel mass to represent the accumulation of dead vegetation on the forest floor further improved the simulations, demonstrating the efficacy of representing both dead standing and fallen vegetation to produce more realistic PyroCb and smoke simulations.

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