Royal Society of NSW News & Events

Royal Society of NSW News & Events

Hunter Branch Meeting 2021-2

Professor Jason Sharples“Extreme bushfires and the
age of violent pyroconvection”

Professor Jason Sharples

School of Science
UNSW (Canberra)

Date: Wednesday, 30 June 2021, 6.00 pm AEST 
Venue:  Zoom Webinar
Video presentation: YouTube video

(*) NotePlease note the change to both the time of the event and the venue/format. The current uncertainty regarding COVID-19 has necessitated a change in format from a face-to-face meeting to the Zoom webinar format.  Refund arrangements will be notified to those who have already made payments for the originally planned event (and dinner) at Noah's on the Beach.  

Summary:  Over the last few decades, Australia and other fire prone parts of the world have seen an apparent increase in the occurrence of large destructive bushfires, such as those experienced during the 2019/20 Black Summer. These fires defy suppression, consistently result in the loss of life and property, and further impact the cultural, economic, social and political stability of communities. They also produce significant environmental damage with ongoing implications for the ecology and biodiversity of many species. The types of behaviours exhibited by these fires are often at odds with traditional approaches to understanding bushfire, which have primarily relied on information gathered during smaller experimental fires in particular types of vegetation. In contrast, these fires tend to manifest as violent pyroconvective events, which often share more in common with an atmospheric storm than a surface fire. In this talk I will present an overview of recent insights into the occurrence and behaviour of these extreme bushfires and discuss some of the challenges they pose for bushfire risk management.

Brief biography: Professor Sharples is a mathematical scientist and internationally recognised expert in dynamic bushfire behaviour and extreme bushfire development. He has led several Australian Research Council and Bushfire and Natural Hazards Cooperative Research Centre projects and is involved in international wildfire research projects. These projects consider various aspects of extreme and dynamic bushfire propagation, the development of large conflagrations and bushfire risk management. His expertise is particularly relevant because of the large gap between the predictions of current mathematical models of fire behaviour and actual fire behaviour.

He is Director of the UNSW Bushfire Research Group, which aims to improve understanding of the fundamental processes that drive extreme bushfire development and their relation to firefighter and community safety.

Professor Sharples has acted an expert witness in several Coronial and Parliamentary Inquiries, most recently at the 2020 Bushfire Royal Commission, and has been a key contributor to the international dialogue around wildfire modelling and risk management. His research has been adopted in national firefighter training materials and into the operational procedures of bushfire management agencies such as the NSW Rural Fire Service.

Professor Sharples graduated with a Bachelor of Science (Mathematics/Physics) and Bachelor of Mathematics in 1995 and an Honours degree in Mathematics in 1996, all from the University of Newcastle (UON). He then completed his PhD in pure mathematics and mathematical physics at the University of Canberra. He was UON’s first indigenous student awarded double degrees in Bachelor of Science/ Bachelor of Mathematics and a recipient of the University Medal.

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