The Physics of Fire
Visualizing wildfires for interactive exploration
The behavior of wildfires depends on many factors, including topography, weather, and properties of the burning vegetation. During the course of a fire, the blaze consumes fuel, heats and roils the atmosphere, and moves across varying terrain.
FIRETEC, developed by the Los Alamos National Laboratory (LANL) of the U.S. Department of Energy, is a physics-based 3D simulation of wildfires that allows scientists to predict the behavior of a fire under the current conditions as well as the expected effect of different firefighting strategies. It can also study wildfires over varying circumstances, enabling planners to optimize fuel-management strategies such as forest thinning and controlled burns.
In these use cases, visualizing model results is vital to understanding them. This image illustrates a FIRETEC model after a fire has ignited on the down-wind slope of a ridge. Heat is visualized volumetrically to represent fire and smoke, streamlines are used to represent wind flow, and coloring is used to indicate properties of terrain vegetation.
Cinema, a tool also developed by LANL, enables the visualized results of different models, each rendered at unique time steps and from different viewpoints, to be placed into a database for interactive exploration.
Visualization credits: Rodman Linn, Los Alamos National Laboratory; Francesca Samsel and Greg Abram, Texas Advanced Computing Center