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RESEARCH PAPERS

Firestorms

[+] Author and Article Information
G. F. Carrier

Pierce Hall, Harvard University, Cambridge, Mass. 02138

F. E. Fendell, P. S. Feldman

Engineering Sciences Laboratory, TRW Space and Technology Group, Redondo Beach, Calif. 90278

J. Heat Transfer 107(1), 19-27 (Feb 01, 1985) (9 pages) doi:10.1115/1.3247379 History: Received September 21, 1983; Online October 20, 2009

Abstract

Quantitative criteria are sought for onset of firestorms, severe stationary (non-propagating) holocausts arising via merger of fires from multiple simultaneous ignitions in a heavily fuel-laden urban environment. Within an hour, surface-level radial inflow from all directions sustains a large-diameter convective column that eventually reaches altitude of about 10 km (e.g., Hamburg, Dresden, Hiroshima). As the firestorm achieves peak intensity (a couple of hours after the ignitions), inflow speeds are inferred to attain 25–50 m/s; typically 12 km2 are reduced to ashes, before winds relax to ambient levels in six-to-nine hours. Here the firestorm is interpreted to be a mesocyclone (rotating severe local storm). Even with exceedingly large heat release sustained over a concentrated area, in the presence of a very nearly autoconvectively unstable atmospheric stratification, onset of vigorous swirling on the scale of 2 hrs requires more than concentration of circulation associated with the rotation of the earth; rather, a preexisting, if weak, circulation appears necessary for firestorm cyclogenesis.

Copyright © 1985 by ASME
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