Meteorologist at Weather Underground, background in fire weather research. Twitter: @WunderKari
By: Kari Kiefer , 7:12 PM GMT on July 09, 2008
I am one of the summer meteorology interns here at Weather Underground. I am currently working on my Master's at San Jose State University and I am focusing on Fire Weather (quite appropriate, I know!). Tomorrow I fly to Georgia with my adviser and another graduate student to take measurements during a prescribed burn.
You may ask, "Why Georgia, there are plenty of fires in California?" The reason for the multiple statewide fires results from low humidity due to extremely dry conditions. Georgia, on the other hand, is very humid this time of year, so prescribed fires are much easier to control. We were scheduled for a fire at the end of May at Henry W. Coe State Park in California, but it was canceled because conditions were already too dry. So here we go, off to Joseph W. Jones Ecological Research Center at Ichauway.
My thesis focuses on moisture levels in fire plumes. It has been found that moisture released by combustion emits significant moisture into the atmosphere. Thus in addition to smoke, haze and even clouds can form. It is interesting to study how forest fires really alter the background atmospheric conditions.
This past year was my first year of graduate work and second semester I got off to a good start on my thesis. With the help of a fellow undergraduate student, I built a remote controlled airplane and attached a radiosonde which we will fly through a fire plume to obtain temperature and relative humidity measurements. I found a volunteer pilot to fly it for us and we did a few test flights. We planned on flying it in May, but now we have to wait until the dry season is over.
Since we cannot bring my pilot out to Georgia, I cannot fly my plane through the fires this trip. Instead, we plan to launch multiple weather balloons to obtain temperature and relative humidity data in the fire plumes. We plan to launch 1-2 balloons each fire and we will have approximately 1 burn everyday from Friday to Wednesday. I will keep a daily blog of our work and will try post pictures as often as I can. Please stay tuned and feel free to ask any questions along the way!
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