The Wildland Fire Heat Budget—Using Bi-Directional Probes to Measure Sensible Heat Flux and Energy in Surface Fires
Sensible energy is the primary mode of heat dissipation from combustion in wildland surface fires. However, despite its importance to fire dynamics, smoke transport, and in determining ecological effects, it is not routinely measured. McCaffrey and Heskestad (A robust bidirectional low-velocity probe for flame and fire application. Combustion and Flame 26:125–127, 1976) describe measurements of flame velocity from a bi-directional probe which, when combined with gas temperature measurements, can be used to estimate sensible heat fluxes. In this first field application of bi-directional probes, we describe vertical and horizontal sensible heat fluxes during the RxCADRE experimental surface fires in longleaf pine savanna and open ranges at Eglin Air Force Base, Florida. Flame-front sensible energy is the time-integral of heat flux over a residence time, here defined by the rise in gas temperatures above ambient. Horizontal flow velocities and energies were larger than vertical velocities and energies. Sensible heat flux and energy measurements were coordinated with overhead radiometer measurements from which we estimated fire energy (total energy generated by combustion) under the assumption that 17% of fire energy is radiated. In approximation, horizontal, vertical, and resultant sensible energies averaged 75%, 54%, and 64%, respectively, of fire energy. While promising, measurement challenges remain, including obtaining accurate gas and velocity measurements and capturing three-dimensional flow in the field.