From The Denver Post (Electa Draper):
“It’s been difficult to predict the behavior of the High Park Fire,” [Sher Schranz, research coordinator with Colorado State University’s Cooperative Institute for Research in the Atmosphere] said. “It jumped over the (Poudre) river and the road. That was unexpected early on. This fire has sometimes baffled incident managers.”
The behavior of winds in the complex terrain and conditions of the High Park fire has also at times stumped researchers by not conforming to their models, Schranz said. Numerical weather prediction models — forecasting wind speed, direction, temperature, humidity and visibility for fire managers — have greatly improved in the last 10 years, she said, but they still aren’t good enough. “We need greater resolution in real time,” she, referring to the institute and other collaborators at the NOAA Earth System Research Lab in Boulder. “We need more detailed observations of the atmosphere from the ground up to several thousand feet.”
Fires are fought on the ground a few feet at a time, she said, so knowing what’s generally expected over a few square miles isn’t adequate.