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Keywords:

  • wildfires;
  • cold fronts;
  • convective rolls;
  • bores

Abstract

The meteorological conditions are investigated over the state of Victoria, Australia on 7 February 2009, the day of the ‘Black Saturday’ fires. Daytime temperatures exceeding 45°C, strong surface winds and extremely dry conditions combined to produce the worst fire weather conditions on record. A high-resolution nested simulation with the UK Met Office Unified Model and available observations are used to identify the important mesoscale features of the day. The highest resolution domain has horizontal grid spacing of 444 m and reproduces most aspects of the observed meteorological conditions. These include organized horizontal convective rolls, a strong late-afternoon cool change with many of the characteristics of an unsteady gravity current, a weaker late-evening cold front and propagating nocturnal bores. These mesoscale phenomena introduce variability in the winds, temperature and humidity at short temporal and spatial scales, which in turn lead to large spatial and temporal variability in fire danger. Copyright © 2012 Royal Meteorological Society