Front propagation in heterogeneous media: mathematical, numerical, and statistical issues in modelling a forest fire front (10w5077)


(University of Victoria)

Anne Bourlioux (Universite de Montreal)

John (Willard) Braun (University of Western Ontario)


The Banff International Research Station will host the "Front propagation in heterogeneous media: mathematical, numerical, and statistical issues in modelling a forest fire front" workshop from October 17 to October 22, 2010.

Forests are one of Canada's great resources. Forest fires are a natural component of these ecosystems, but they can also pose threats to public safety, property and forest resources. Every year, forest fires cause millions of dollars worth of damage and force the evacuation of some communities. Such problems will be exacerbated as climate change alters forest vegetation and weather. Because of those potential impacts, forest fire simulations tools have been developed, in Canada and elsewhere in the world where such problems are significant (USA, Australia, and Mediterranean countries for example). For all realistic simulators, the underlying mathematical representation is that of an infinitesimally thin front propagating with a deterministic but highly heterogeneous rate of spread, reflecting variations in the local vegetation, topography, weather conditions and other physical variables that affect the combustion process. Such simulators are indispensable tools for strategic management of fire-control resources before and during fires.

Straightforward numerical implementation of such deterministic spread models typically leads to very challenging issues that affect the robustness and accuracy of the predictions. Many questions remain open regarding how to best handle this class of front propagation problems from a numerical point of view, how to best incorporate in the models effects such as ignition ahead of the front by firebrand, or interaction with the weather conditions, and how to make incorporate probability into any prediction.

The Banff International Research Station for Mathematical Innovation and Discovery (BIRS) is a collaborative Canada-US-Mexico venture that provides an environment for creative interaction as well as the exchange of ideas, knowledge, and methods within the Mathematical Sciences, with related disciplines and with industry. The research station is located at The Banff Centre in Alberta and is supported by Canada's Natural Science and Engineering Research Council (NSERC), the US National Science Foundation (NSF), Alberta's Advanced Education and Technology, and Mexico's Consejo Nacional de Ciencia y Tecnologia (CONACYT).