FIRESTORM – Weather and Behaviour of Fire Storms


Xavier Viegas

CESAM Responsible researcher

Ana Isabel Miranda


2017 SR&TD Projects Forest Fire Prevention and Fighting


01/02/2019 - 31/01/2023

Funding for CESAM

69200 €

Total Funding

379592 €

Funding Entity

FCT - Fundação para a Ciência e a Tecnologia

Proponent Institution

Associação para o Desenvolvimento da Aerodinâmica Industrial (ADAI)

Participating Institutions

  • Universidade de Aveiro
  • Associação para o Desenvolvimento da Aerodinâmica Industrial (ADAI)
  • Instituto de Engenharia Mecânica (IDMEC)
  • Instituto Português do Mar e da Atmosfera, I. P. (IPMA)


The fires that devastated Portugal in 2017, were outstanding for several reasons: they caused more than 112 deaths, destroyed hundreds of houses and companies and more than 500000 hectares, establishing absolute records of fire-induced destruction in the country. Among other requests made by society there is the need of producing a better knowledge on the role of meteorology on the extreme behaviour in such fires, that may be incorporated in decision support tools and transferred to operational decisions and may help save lives. Ongoing climatic changes have created more frequent drought and heat wave conditions that trigger the occurrence of Extreme Wildfire Events (EWE). We intend to look at historical data on fire occurrence in Portugal and identify the conditions that lead to EWE and to define methods to predict them in space and in time and provide an early warning to the authorities and population.
The very important interaction between atmospheric flows like breezes, hunderstorms or weather fronts and the ground flow will be studied using numerical simulation and ground data to validate the results. The feedback process of interaction between the fire and the atmospheric flow will be studied at laboratory and field experiments, modeled numerically and validated with the analysis of real fires to improve the capacity to model the dynamic behaviour of EWE. Extreme fires generate a sequence of unsteady events that are not presently included in fire-spread modelling that is based on widely varying physical assumptions and empirical relationships applied to steady-state conditions. To overcome these limitations we will study conflagrations that are EWE generated by strong winds. Crown fires and spot fires associated to conflagrations will be studied numerically and validated with field data. We will also study mass fires that occur when large areas of vegetation burn at the same time, producing very strong convection columns and radiative effects, aerial flames, and emit clouds of spot fires by firebrands that are transported by ambient winds. The process of fire merging is associated to some of the most dramatic processes of fire spread and related phenomena that have been observed in Nature which are still poorly studied. In FIRESTORM project we will consider the basic situations of fires burning mostly as line fires or as mass fires approaching each other and merging. In this process we will analyze the formation of fire whirls and wind whirls and assess their destructive power. Heat release is an important issue in the management of EWE, but smoke emitted by the various stages of combustion can be very harmful to personal safety due to its effects on visibility, comfort and survivability. In FIRESTOM Project we will incorporate smoke emission and dispersion modelling in fire simulators and decision support systems to help the authorities plan or execute aerial or ground operations namely evacuation actions more safely.
Using advanced direct numerical simulation techniques several multi scale problems identified in the various Tasks of the project will be studied in a collaborative way, integrating the sub-models developed to describe each process. These simulations will use supercomputers to address the problems of turbulent particles dispersion, multiscale modelling and the stochastic nature of extreme fires and to assess the statistics of extreme events of turbulence, particles dispersion which are at the core of short and intermediate range spotting. This effort will pave the way to produce a decision support system that will be made available to the authorities. The FIRESTORM Consortium will dedicate great attention and effort to disseminate and promote the knowledge developed in the project to the scientific community, to operational bodies, to decision makers and to the public. Besides the usual scientific dissemination indicators we intend to promote activities that will assure that the outcome of the project will reach a wide audience. We will create a web page of the project, several workshops and seminars, specialized courses for operational agents and a final workshop. We will publish one Practical Manual with practical guidelines and training material to be used by operational agents, decision makers and the public and a Technical Book collecting the main scientific results and achievements of the project. We will also prepare a TV documentary on the activities of the project to disseminate its work and results to a wide international audience. Versions of this documentary will be adapted to be used with special groups like operational agents, land owners or children.

CESAM members in the project