Google Research

Fire in Paradise: Mesoscale Simulation of Wildfires

  • Torsten Hädrich
  • Daniel Banuti
  • Wojciech Pałubicki
  • Sören Pirk
  • Dominik L. Michels
ACM Transactions on Graphics (SIGGRAPH) (2021)


Resulting from changing climatic conditions, wildfires have become an existential threat across various countries around the world. The complex dynamics paired with their often rapid progression renders wildfires an often disastrous natural phenomenon that is difficult to predict and to counteract. In this paper we present a novel method for simulating wildfires with the goal to realistically capture the combustion process of individual trees and the resulting propagation of fires at the scale of forests. We rely on a state-of-the-art modeling approach for large-scale ecosystems that enables us to represent each plant as a detailed 3D geometric model. We introduce a novel mathematical formulation for the combustion process of plants -- also considering effects such as heat transfer, char insulation, and mass loss -- as well as for the propagation of fire through the entire ecosystem. Unlike the existing geometric representation of trees in wildfire simulations, such as cones or cylinders, our detailed 3D tree models enable us to simulate the interplay of geometric variations of branching structures and the dynamics of fire and wood combustion. Our simulation runs at interactive rates and thereby provides a convenient way to explore different conditions that affect wildfires, ranging from terrain elevation profiles and ecosystem compositions to various measures against wildfires, such as cutting down trees as firebreaks, the application of fire retardant, or the simulation of rain.

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