Scientists use Pioneer Fire to study wildfire weather

Researchers are learning how to better understand weather patterns created by fire using the active Pioneer Fire in Idaho.

LOWMAN, Idaho -- A unique study on how wildfires create their own weather systems is being conducted right here in Idaho.

The test subject is the Pioneer Fire, currently burning in 157,393 acres of the Boise National Forest.

Researchers with San Jose State spent more than ten hours Monday and Tuesday flying a specialized aircraft in and around the smoke plumes and clouds put off by the wildfire.

Craig Clements, an associate professor of meteorology at San Jose State, said the info-gathering flights were a success.

"It was very exciting because they were telling us some of the observations they were seeing and one of the crew members told us immediately that the radar was picking up the fire plume really, really well," he said. 

Researchers hope to learn more about wind fields in fire plumes to better understand how it influences fire behavior on the ground. Participants say this is the first time scientists have been able to measure that type of data.

"There are strong updrafts, which are winds that go from the surface of the fire up into the atmosphere, and they can also return back down to the surface," Clements said. "When that happens, it can drive the fire in different directions than what the general weather is or what the general wind is in the area, so this actually allows us to predict in the future when we develop these newer models."

The Pioneer Fire is expected to continue burning through the end of the month.

Copyright 2016 KTVB


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