NCSA 30 | NCSA models Yellowstone fires
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NCSA models Yellowstone fires

Yellowstone Park's forest fire history

NCSA models Yellowstone fires

Not all forest fires are bad. They play a vital role in the dynamics of forest evolution, transforming fallen plant material to essential nutrients that leach into the soil, opening the canopy so seedlings can get sunlight, and encouraging plant and wildlife diversity.

An animation by NCSA experimental technologies guru Alan Craig brought this fact home. A collaboration between the University of Illinois, Fort Lewis College in Colorado, and Yellowstone National Park, the project tracked 300 years of fire history in the park. NCSA Image was used to convert data collected by the team into preliminary models and visualization. The models were also ported to NCSA’s Cray X-MP/48, which allowed the team to shift their analysis from 20- to 25-year intervals to yearly intervals. The results of these runs were captured in NCSA’s HDF data format and visualized with NCSA Image. These final animations were featured on PBS’s Nature in April 1990.

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