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Predicting temperature profiles during simulated forest fires



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Below-ground effects during forest fires are some of the important issues forest managers consider when conducting prescribed fire programs. Heat transfer models in soil are needed to predict temperatures in soil during forest fires. Many of the heat transfer models in soil that include the effects of moisture are complex and in most cases do not have very good predictive abilities. Researchers believe that simple heat transfer models in soil that neglect the effects of moisture could have very good predictive abilities.This study presents a one-dimensional numerical model of heat transfer in dry homogenous sand. Both constant and temperature dependent thermal properties of the sand were used in order to determine which had better predictive abilities. The constant thermal properties model was also extended to a model of two-layer dry soil. A computer code written in Fortran was used to generate results from the model. A number of experiments were conducted with dry sand to validate the model. A comparison of the numerical and experimental results indicated that the temperature dependent properties model had better predictive abilities than the constant properties model. The models were found to do a good job of predicting temperature profiles and depth of lethal heat penetration at heat fluxes indicative of forest fires.Experiments were also conducted to determine the effect of moisture on temperature profiles and the depth of lethal heat penetration in sand and the effect of inorganics on the spread rate of smoldering combustion in peat moss. An experimental correlation of the effects of inorganic content on the spread rate of smoldering combustion in peat moss was developed. Additionally, laboratory methods of validating models of heat transfer in soil were developed with the aim of limiting the dependence on full scale testing. Specifically the use of the cone calorimeter for validating numerical models of heat transfer in soil and the responses of forest floor soil and laboratory created soil samples to heat input were compared. The results indicated that the laboratory created soil did a very good job of mimicking the heat response of the forest floor soil with a maximum difference in lethal heat penetration of 4%.



heat transfer, prescribed fire, soil temperature, forest fire, depth of lethal heat penetration



Master of Science (M.Sc.)


Environmental Engineering


Environmental Engineering



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