Wildfire experts available to explain fire behavior, potential impacts

Scientists are gaining new insights into wildfires

May 19, 2022 - by Staff

As wildfires threaten much of the West during another hot and dry year, scientists at the National Center for Atmospheric Research (NCAR) are researching key aspects of these destructive events. Wildfire experts are available to discuss issues such as:

  • Wildland fire behavior, and how local atmospheric conditions interact with conflagrations
  • Smoke plumes, which affect air quality for hundreds or even thousands of miles downwind
  • Improved prediction systems that can help firefighters anticipate wildfire risk as well as the movement and size of an active fire
  • The potential influence of climate change on the frequency, size, and intensity of future fires

Rebecca Buchholz, NCAR scientist


An atmospheric chemist who uses a range of measurements and computer modeling to analyze the impact of fire emissions on air quality, Buchholz led a recent study into the impacts of Pacific Northwest fires on air pollution patterns across North America. She is also interested in the year-to-year variability of wildfires, long-term fire trends, and the connection between climate variability and emissions.

Janice Coen, NCAR scientist


An internationally recognized expert on wildland fire behavior and the interaction between fires and local atmospheric conditions, Coen uses advanced weather-fire computer models, as well as remote sensing fire detection and wildland fuel products, to gain new insights into wildfires, such as the factors leading to megafires, fire whirls, and pyrocumulus. Her current work involves predicting fire growth and fine-scale wind extrema that cause the electric grid to ignite fires as well as fire dynamics and ember spread in the wildland-urban interface. Highlights of her computer model visualizations of wildfires may be found here

Amy DeCastro, NCAR scientist


DeCastro, an expert on wildfire fuels, is part of a team of NCAR researchers working to improve our ability to simulate and predict wildfire behavior. In particular, DeCastro is interested in making use of remote sensing and other observations to improve the vegetation maps relied on by wildfire models. Recently, she led an effort to use artificial intelligence and satellite imagery to improve predictions for fire spread in areas where forests have been devastated by pine beetles.

John Fasullo, NCAR scientist


Fasullo works to advance understanding of climate variability and change, using both computer models and observations. His research has looked at the influence of fire emissions on regional and global climate, as well as the potential impacts of climate change on wildfires.

Frank Flocke, NCAR senior scientist


Flocke is an atmospheric chemist and air quality expert who studies emissions from wildfires and their influence on air quality, both in the vicinity of fires and far downwind. A specialist in scientific instrumentation and atmospheric observations, he was a principal investigator on a major 2018 field campaign, the Western Wildfire Experiment for Cloud Chemistry, Aerosol Absorption, and Nitrogen (WE-CAN), which measured the chemical components of plumes from fires in the northwestern United States.

Rebecca Hornbrook, NCAR scientist


Hornbrook is an atmospheric chemist with expertise in the measurement of many of the gases emitted by wildfires. She has been involved in several airborne field campaigns that have studied smoke from wildfires, and she is interested in the air quality and health impacts that fires have on the regions affected by wildfire smoke.

Timothy Juliano, NCAR scientist


Juliano works on the NCAR team that is developing modeling systems to improve predictions of wildfires, including the spread of active fires and likelihood of ember spotting. A boundary layer meteorologist, he studies the often subtle ways that weather conditions and ground cover influence wildfire behavior.

Jason Knievel, NCAR scientist and deputy director, NCAR National Security Applications Program


Knievel is a meteorologist who uses computer models and observations to gain new insights into the influence of atmospheric conditions, ground cover, and terrain on the behavior of wildfires. He helps lead an NCAR team that is working to better predict the ignition and spread of wildfires, and to improve our understanding of how weather and wildfires influence each other.

Branko Kosovic, NCAR scientist and director, NCAR Weather Systems and Assessment Program


An expert on wildfire prediction, Kosovic leads the NCAR team that is developing an advanced weather–wildland fire behavior model for the Colorado Wildfire Prediction System. He also oversaw the development of a data product of daily dead and live fuel moisture across the contiguous United States, which combines satellite and surface observations using a machine learning model. Kosovic is the Chair of the Ad Hoc Committee on Wildfire Weather, Technology and Risk of the American Meteorological Society.

David Lawrence, NCAR senior scientist and section head, NCAR Terrestrial Sciences


Lawrence specializes in using computer models to better understand interactions between land surfaces and climate change. He applies his modeling expertise to better understand the long-term response of fires, both regionally and globally, to changes in climate and human development.

Brett Palm, NCAR scientist


An atmospheric chemist, Palm studies wildfire emissions, focusing on how organic compounds and other particles and gases in a smoke plume evolve as they drift downwind in the atmosphere. He gains new insights into emissions by using mass spectrometers on research aircraft to measure the components of smoke plumes.

Jacquelyn Shuman, NCAR scientist


Shuman studies the influence of climate change on wildfires with a particular focus on the role of vegetation, examining how changes in climate and fire frequency may affect land cover and, in term, how the altered land cover may fuel future fires. She uses advanced computer modeling to simulate the interactions of climate, fire, and vegetation on local, regional, and global scales, as well as researching the long-term outlook for fires in a warmer world.

Daniel Swain, NCAR research fellow and climate scientist with the University of California, Los Angeles


Swain is a climate scientist who is especially interested in how climate change is affecting regional climate extremes, including droughts, floods, and wildfires. He is engaged in multiple research projects that focus on understanding the climate-related factors driving the recent surge in wildfire severity in California and across the broader American West. Widely quoted in the media, Swain tweets regularly from @Weather_West and writes the Weather West blog, which provides real-time perspectives on California weather and climate.

Danielle Touma, NCAR postdoctoral fellow


Touma is a climate scientist who is interested in understanding the influence of warming temperatures on extreme events such as wildfires, heavy rainfall, and drought. Her research has looked into such questions as whether extreme rain will fall more frequently on recently burned areas and the extent to which climate change is contributing to drought in the West.


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