Vita: Dr. Don Jay Latham

Personal Data

College Degrees:

B.A., Pomona College, Claremont, CA., 1960. Physics.

M.S., New Mexico Institute of Mining and Technology, Socorro, New Mexico. 1964. Earth Science.

Ph.D., New Mexico Tech., Socorro, New Mexico. 1968. Earth Science.

Additional study:

Air-Sea Interaction, 3 hrs., Univ. of Miami. 1970. (audit)

Atmospheric Waves, 3 hrs., Univ. of Miami. 1972. (audit)

History of Systems with lab., 6 credits, Univ. of Montana. 1980.

Seminar in Scientific Thought, 2 credits, Univ. ofontana. 1979.

Organizational Psychology, 3 credits, Univ. of Montana. 1986.

Introduction to Artificial Intelligence, 3 credits, Univ. of Montana. 1985.

Applied A/I, Expert Systems, 3 credits, Univ. of Montana. 1985.

Artificial Intelligence Workshop, OCATE (Oregon Center for Advanced Technology Education), November 1986.

30 quarter-hours of graduate-level psychology 1980-1988

National Wildfire Investigator Training, conducted by the Federal Law Enforcement Training Center, May, 2001

Professional Experience

  1. 1959-1960. Laboratory Assistant, Pomona College, Claremont, CA.
  2. 1961-1967. Research Assistant, New Mexico Institute of Mining and Technology, Socorro, New Mexico
  3. 1967-1968. Senior Research Scientist, Rosenstiel School of Marine and Atmospheric Science, Univ. of Miami, Coral Gables, Florida.
  4. 1968-1972. Assistant Professor, Univ. of Miami, Coral Gables, Florida.
  5. 1972-1975. Associate Professor, Univ. of Miami, Coral Gables, Florida.
  6. 1975-1991. Research Meteorologist, GS-13, USDA, Intermountain Research Station, Intermountain Fire Sciences Laboratory, Missoula, Montana.
  7. 1990-1997. Supervisory Research Meteorologist, GM-14, Intermountain Research Station, Intermountain Fire Sciences Laboratory, Missoula, MT. Supervise 3 scientists, 2 technicians
  8. 1997-2002 Project Leader, Fire Behavior RWU, IFSL, Missoula, MT Responsible for 7 scientists, 3 mathematicians, 3 technicians, $3 MM hard money budget, $5 MM soft money.
  9. 2002 - Proprietor, Six Mile Systems and Lightning Forensics


Civic experience:


  1. 1984-1993, Member and chairman, Frenchtown School District, Frenchtown, MT
  2. 2002- , Member, Water Quality Advisory Council, Missoula County, Montana


Society and Committee Participation:


Membership in professional societies:


  1. American Geophysical Union
  2. American Meteorological Society
  3. American Psychological Association
  4. American Association for Artificial Intelligence
  5. International Union of Forestry Research Organizations


Offices, Committes, editing, etc.:


  1. Chairman, IUFRO Section S4.11.03 "Information Management", 1990-1998
  2. Committee on Atmospheric Electricity, American Meteorological Society, 1981-1984.
  3. Informal committee on lightning detection from space, NASA, 1980-1990.
  4. National Research Council Review Panel for Atmospheric Electricity, July 23, 1990
  5. USDA representative, Office of the Federal Coordinator for Meteorological Services, Working group for Lightning Detection Systems, 1991-2002
  6. Associate Editor, International Journal of Wildland Fire, 1992-present.
  7. Contributing Editor for "AI Applications in Natural Resource Management," 1986-2000 (journal ceased publication)
  8. Occasional editor (and publisher) IUFRO S4.11 working party (Computers in Forestry Research) newsletter.
  9. Consulting reader for Psychological Reports,1982-present
  10. Consulting Reader for Perceptual and Motor Skills, 1982-present.


Honors and Awards:


  1. Certificate of Merit, $1,500 cash award, for Innovative Ideas Regarding Application of Computer Technology, Feb. 1986.
  2. Irving Langmuir Award for Excellence in Research, New Mexico Tech, 1991
  3. Certificate of Merit ($500 award) Jan. 1999 serving as acting program manager
  4. Certificate of Merit ($1000 award) for Outstanding Leadership in Responding to the 2000 Fire Season (2000)



( Note that presentations are peer reviewed and accepted for presentation)


Invited papers before scientific societies:


1.      "Artificial intelligence and expert systems in fire," Wildland Fire 2000, Tahoe, CA. 1987

2.      Moderator/session keynoter, Forestry Expert Systems, Forest Resources Systems Institute, Syracuse, NY, 1987

3.      Keynote speaker, 10th Conference on Fire and Forest Meteorology, Ottawa, Ont., Canada. April, 1989

4.      Keynote speaker and moderator, session on Artificial Intelligence, Ontario Division of Natural Resources, Ottawa, Ont. Canada, Sept. 1989

5.      Chair, speaker, and Moderator, Artificial Intelligence section, IUFRO 100th anniversary meeting, Berlin, Sept.1992.

6.    More than 40 offered papers before scientific societies on topics such as: atmospheric electricity, lightning, wildfire ignition, fire season severity, artificial intelligence, 1965-2002.


Offered papers before scientific societies:


  1. New Mexico Academy of Sciences, Socorro, NM, 1965. "Frequency characteristics of thunder."
  2. American Geophysical Union, San Francisco, Fall Meeting 1971. "Experimental results of investigation of atmospheric electricity over the open ocean."
  3. AGU, San Francisco, Fall Meeting 1973. "Atmospheric electricity and marine roll vortices."
  4. AGU, San Francisco, 1974. "An investigation of atmospheric electricity and tethered balloon systems."
  5. AGU, San Francisco, Fall Meeting 1977. "A model for the continuing current portion of the lightning discharge."
  6. Sixth Conference on Fire and Forest Meteorology, Seattle, WA, 1980. "A possible fire season severity predictor."
  7. AGU, San Francisco, Fall Meeting 1980. "Luminous energy in the lightning continuing current."
  8. AGU, San Francisco, Fall Meeting 1984. "Size and growth of lightning continuing currents." (Paper accepted and prepared; did not attend meeting)
  9. AMS - VII International Conference on Atmospheric Electricity, SUNY, Albany, NY, June 1984. "A numerical simulation of the lightning continuing current channel."
  10. AGU, San Francisco, Fall Meeting, 1985. "N2+1N/cn radiation in lightning continuing currents."
  11. 9th Conference on Fire and Forest Meteorology, San Diego, CA, Apr. 21-24, 1987. "Analog method of forecasting."
  12. AGU, San Fransisco, Fall Meeting, 1989, "Lightning from a Large Prescribed Burn Plume Cloud"
  13. 11th Conference on Fire and Forest Meteorology, 1991, "A Simple One-dimensional Plume Model"
  1. 9th international conference on Atmospheric Electricity, St.Petersburg, Russia, 1992, "Charge Generation by Wind-Driven Fire". An oral and poster presentation.
  2. see also 44, 45, and 46 in publications below; all were also presented orally.
  3. Lightning Location meeting and workshop, Tucson, AZ, 2002, “Relative Locations of Wildland Fires and Lightning Locations”, also published ain proceedings (late paper)

Invited presentations to management and non-scientific groups:


  1. presentations to Forest Service Aviation & Fire Management regarding lightning locations systems and their use, Washington, DC, 1976.
  2. presentations to R-1 staff on lightning location systems and their use. Missoula, MT, 1976-1977.
  3. Yearly updates of Forest Service activities (invited) to LLP Lightning Detection Meetings, Tucson, AZ.
  4. seminar and consultation trip to New Mexico Institute of Mining and Technology, Socorro, NM, October 1980. "Optical radiation from the lightning continuing current." (invited)
  5. Keynote speaker, Southwestern Society, Soc. American Foresters, Spring Meeting, Albuquerque, NM, 1986. (invited)
  6. Conducted a seminar and consultation trip on lightning. Montana State University, Department of Electrical Engineering, October 1984.
  7. Story board presentation, Western Forest Mensurationists. Informal workshop on models, Portland, OR, Dec. 3, 1979. "Fire season prediction model."
  8. Part of teaching team, Expert Systems, Engineering Workshop,Denver, CO 1987.
  9. Organized and participated in 4-hour AI presentation, INT leadership meeting, April, 1988 (invited)
  10. Lecture on Artificial Intelligence and Expert Systems,Sigma Xi, University of Montana, 1987 (invited)
  11. Presentation on Artificial Intelligence, Programming Meeting, Ft. Collins, CO, 1987(invited)
  12. Speaker and participant, National Software Meeting,Atlanta, GA 1988 (invited)
  13. Invited speaker, GLOBE 90 international conference, March 20, 1990
  14. Invited presentations, Missoula Rural Electric Coop, lightning, fires, and power lines, 1990, 1995.
  15. Lightning ignition component, National Wildfire Investigator Training, for the Federal Law Enforcement Training Center, May 2001


Consulting, workshops, etc.:


  1. National Park Service, 1977, lightning considerations for Moro Rock, Sequoia National Park.
  2. (Unnamed) Radar Chaff manufacturing company- dispersion of radar chaff in clear air and cloud. Measured with Nike 3 cm radar, measured fall speed of chaff in enclosure designed and constructed for the purpose. 1970-71
  3. BLM, Alaska fire dispatch, 1978 procedures for coupling lightning location systems to fire danger rating system (using knowledge at the time).
  4. Region 2 and ski-lift managers, Vail, Colorado, 1979. Needed guidelines for thunderstorm safety of ski lift facilities, analysis of lightning equipment on site, and recommendations for further action. These were given and wereimplemented.
  5. seminar and consultation trip to New Mexico Instituteof Mining and Technology, Socorro, NM, October 1980. "Optical radiation from the lightning continuing current." (invited)
  6. Invited specialist, Canadian Lightning Location Workshop, Petawawa National Forestry Workshop, August 1981
  7. Utah Natural Resources and Energy, Forestry Dept., 1982 Reviewed lightning protection system for Fremont Island State Park.
  8. South Dakota Dept. of Game, Fish, and Parks. 1983. Consultation on snag lightning strikes.
  9. Contributor to Time-Life Books "Planet Earth" series, 1984.
  10. University of Montana, Lubrecht Experimental Forest. 1984 Technical assistance with weather station construction and location.
  11. Originated, organized, and conducted workshops on artificial intelligence, 1986-1993, nationwide for the Forest Service and other land management agencies. Included tutorials and presented papers.
  12. Missoula Equipment Development Center. 1987 Assist with design of a parachute training simulator.
  13. Design of a lightning rod and grounding system for National Park Service "Smithsonian Hut" historic building. 1987
  14. Consultation with the Societe Incindies d'l Outaouis at Maniwaki, Quebec on fire uses for lightning location and weather radar. Included considerations for small local radars. 1989
  15. Member of a 9-person advisory panel to NASA, Lightning from space project, December, 1991
  16. Scott Paper Company, 1992, lightning safety in operations.
  17. Spent three weeks in China at the Plateau Institute for Atmospherics, Lanjou, and the National Fire Laboratory, Hefei, consulting in Atmospheric Electricity, expert systems, and wind tunnel operations and instrumentation. This was an invited trip, paid internally by the Chinese government. The trip involved preparation for and delivery of more than ten days of lectures. Nov-Dec. 1992.
  18. Development of a lightning ignition probability map for Wildland Fire Assessment System (Presently on web, used daily during fire season)
  19. Worked with Forestry Research of the Canadian Province of British Columbia for 4 years 1990-1994, surveying lightning location system, evaluating radar coverage, integrating location into fire prediction and occurrence evaluation systems, calibrating system accuracy, and measuring lightning parameters.
  20. Has appeared in print and on television with regard to lightning, forest fires, and fire ignition. Organized and supervised many laboratory visits by the press. 1977-2002.
  21. Consulted within the Fire Lab and with personnel in other Fire Labs with respect to experimental equipment and design, including computers, optical and radiofrequency equipment and measurement of radiation and temperature. Has also worked with the Weather Service experimental branch to integrate lightning with radar and other weather measurements for forest fire applications.


Other Expertise:




Design and construction of the following scientific equipment:

1)3 cm radar, 1.2 kW peak pulse, 6 ft dish, fully steerable in altitude and azimuth.

2)Microphone system for thunder studies (Master’s thesis)

3)Vertical wind tunnel for the suspension of water drops (PhD thesis)

4)10 GHz system for backscatter from water drops (PhD thesis)

5)apparatus for determining fall characteristics of radar chaff

6)development of the noise radar for cloud investigtation (later patented)

7) Numerous devices for the investigation of lightning characteristics, including broadband magnetic field measurements (forerunner of the lightning detection system), and optical sensors including PM tubes and optical filters.

8)Complete system for simulation of lightning continuing current (scr pulser, 42 12 volt truck batteries in series)

9)Charge sensing system for wind tunnel fire charge investigation.

10) Receiving system for amateur radio astronomy, 16 ft dish, alt-ax mount, 1420 MHz, computer driven. Software and hardware construction (hobby)

11) Electric field mill design for forest fire investigation.

12) Large wind tunnel HVAC, water vapor injection, and instrumentation.


Computer modeling:


1)     One dimensional model of the lightning continuing current (published, see below) used to understand expansion of hot air column of the continuing current and ac arcs and its temperature structure.

2)     One-dimensional vertical air column model to simulate smoke columns and cumulus clouds. Includes full water balance parameterization and vertical motions due to buoyancy. Institutionalized as PLUMP (see below)

3)     Expert system for crown fires

4)     Charge generation and transport in one and two dimensions- electrode effect and boundary layer over the ocean.



  1. Participant in Serious Accident Report, North Stansbury Fire, Aug. 23, 2000. This investigation of two firefighter deaths by lightning led to my rewrite of the lightning safety section of the Fireline Handbook. Also conducted Q/A session for local firefighters at the time of the investigation.
  2. Participant in investigation of the destruction of a house and death of two occupants, Summerland, BC, Canada, 7/2002. Also conducted Q/A session for other investigators and, separately, for the victim’s family. Report submitted.

Expert Witness Reports, Depositions and Court Appearances:


  1. Deposition 1/21/1993 In the matter of MacLeod, vs. United States of America, No. CV 91-3652-WJR(Tx)
  2. Expert witness for the State of California vs. PG&E; Campbell Complex fire, August, 1990. Case settled before deposition or court. Report to the state was issued.
  3. Expert witness for plaintiff, Civ. no. 03-5020
  4. Investigative report, 6/2002
  5. Expert report, 4/2004
  6. Deposition, 9/2004
  7. Amended report 2005
  8. Deposition 7/2005




1)    Latham, D. J., A. J. Dessler, A. A. Few, and M. Brook. "A dominant 200 HZ peak in the acoustic spectrum of thunder," J. Geo. Res., Vol. 72, p. 6149 1967.

2)    Latham, D. J. and M. Brook. "Fluctuating radar echo: Modulation by Vibrating Drops," J. Geo. Res., Vol. 73, p. 7137-7144. 1968.

3)    Latham, D. J. "High-impedance guarded voltmeter", Rev. Sci. Inst., Vol. 42, p. 535-536. 1971.

4)    Latham, D. J. and H. Poor. "Comment on: 'Determination of Eddy Diffusion Coefficients from Atmospheric Electrical Measurements' by W. A. Hoppel and S. G. Gathman," J. Geo. Res., Vol. 76, p. 5140-5141, 1971.

5)    Latham, D. J. "Diurnal frequency variation and refraction index," Nature Physical Science, Vol. 234, No. 51, p. 157-158, December 20, 1971.

6)    Latham, D. J. and H. Poor. "A time-dependent model of the electrode effect," J. Geo. Res., Vol. 77, No. 15, p. 2669-2675, 1972.

7)    Latham, D. J. and R. W. Miksad. "Electric field perturbations of the marine atmosphere by horizontal roll vortices," J. Geo. Res., Vol. 79, No. 36, p. 5592-5597, 1974.

8)    Latham, D. J. "Atmospheric electrical effects of and on tethered balloon systems." Final report, Contract F08606-73-C-0039, ARPA Order No. 2176, March 14, 1974.

9)    Latham, D., "Notes on Atmospheric Electricity and Lightning Pertinent to Tethered Parafoil use at Sea”"Appendix C, NOSC Technical Note 407, K.Powers, Naval Ocean Systems Center, San Diego, CA, 15 May 1978.

10) D. Fuquay, R. Baughman, and D. Latham. "A model for predicting lightning fire ignition in wildland fuels." USDA Forest Service Research Paper INT-217, April 1979

11) Latham, D. J. "Progress toward locating lightning fires." USDA Forest Service Research Note INT-269, December 1979.

12) Latham, D. J. "Simple noise level digitizer. "Review of Scientific Instruments, V. 51, No. 1, January 1980.

13) Latham, D. J. "A fire season severity predictor" Proceedings, Sixth Conference on Fire and Forest Meteorology, Seattle, WA. Apr. 22-24, 1980.

14) Latham, D. J. "A channel model for long arcs in air", Physics of Fluids, Vol. 23, No. 8, August 1980.

15) F. A. Albini, D. J. Latham, and R. G. Baughman. "Estimating upslope windspeeds for predicting wildland fire behavior", USDA Forest Service Research Paper INT-257, 19 p., 1982.

16) Latham, D. J. "A lightning-locating and fire-forecasting system." USDA For. Serv. Research Paper INT-315, July 1983.

17) Andrews, Patricia L. and D. J. Latham. "BEHAVE: A knowledge-based expert system for predicting wildland fire behavior." Proceedings, Summer Computer Simulation Conference, Vol. 2, July 23-25, 1984, Boston, MA: La Jolla, CA: Soc. for Computer Simulation, 1984: 1213-1218

18) Latham, D. J. "A numerical simulation of the lightning continuing current channel." Proceedings, VII International Conference on Atmospheric Electricity, American Meteorological Society, Albany, NY. June 1984.

19) Latham, D. J. "Anode column behavior of long vertical air arcs at atmospheric pressure." IEEE Transactions on Plasma Science, Vol. PS-14, No. 3, June 1986, p. 220-227. 1987.

20) Latham, Don J. "Design and construction of an electric arc generator for fuel ignition studies." USDA For. Serv. Research Note INT-366, 15 p., 1987.

21) Latham, Don J. "Analog method of forecasting." Proceedings, 9th Conf. on Fire and Forest Meteorology, April 2 1-24, 1987, San Diego, CA.

22) Latham, Don J. "Artificial intelligence applications to fire." Proceedings, Symposium on Wildland Fire 2000, April 21-24, 1987, South Lake Tahoe, CA.

23) Latham, Don J. "An Examination of Fire Season Severity Rating" Fire Management Notes, V.48,No.2, pp9-11

24) Latham, Don J. "VP-Expert: A Review" AI Applications in Natural Resource Management" V.2 No.1 pp 60-61, 1987

25) Latham, Don J. "Artificial Intelligence Applications to Fire" Fire Management Notes, V.49, No.2, pp.3-5, 1988.

26) Latham, Don J. "Discharge Characteristics of Long Vertical DC Arcs" Research Paper INT-407, Intermountain Research Station, July 1989.

27) Latham, Don J. and Schleiter, Joyce A. "Ignition Probabilities of Wildland Fuels Based on Simulated Lightning Discharges" Research Paper INT-411, Intermountain Research Station, September, 1989.

28) H.J. Melosh, N.M. Schneider, K.J. Zahnle, & D. Latham. "Ignition of Global Wildfires at the Cretacious/Tertiary Boundary" Nature, V.343, pp251-264. 1989.

29) R.A. Susott, D.E. Ward, R.E. Babbitt, D.J. Latham, L.G. Weger, and P.M. Boyd. "Fire Dynamics and Chemistry of Large Fires" Final Report, 6 March 1990, Defense Nuclear Agency IACRO 89-903 (INT-89409-IA), 1990.

30) Latham, Don J. "Lightning from a prescribed Burn", Proceedings, 11th conference on Fire and forest meteorology, Missoula, MT April, 1991.

31) Latham, D. (1991). "A Simple One-Dimensional Plume Model". 11th Conference on Fire and Forest Meteorology, Missoula, MT, SAF.

32) Latham, Don J. "Lightning Flashes From a Prescribed Fire-induced Cloud", Journal of Geophysical Research, V.96,pp.17,151-17,157, 1991.

33) Susott, R.A., D. Ward, R. Babbitt, and D. Latham. "The Measurement of Trace Emissions and Combustion Characteristics for a Mass Fire", in Global Biomass Burning, J. Levine, Ed. MIT Press, 1991. pp 245-257.

34) Latham, Don J. and Anderson, H. "Fire Behavior in the Wildland/Urban Interface: The American Experience" in: Fire in the Wildland/Urban Interface, Proceedings of the US-Australian Workshop. US Man and Biosphere Program. 1992.

35) Latham, D.J. and R. C. Rothermel, "Probability of Fire-Stopping Precipitation Events" Research Note INT-410, Intermountain Research Station, USDA Forest Service, Feb.1993.

36) Latham, D. (1993). "Weather Data Requirements for Behavior Based Fire Danger Rating Systems". 12th International Conference of Fire and Forest Meteorology, Jekyll Island, Georgia, SAF.

37) Latham, D.J., "PLUMP: A one-dimensional plume predictor and cloud model for fire and smoke managers", General Technical Report INT-GTR-314 , Intermountain Research Station, USDA Forest Service, Nov, 1994

38) Latham, D. and R. Nelson (1994). "Comparison of 10-hour Fuel Moisture Sticks". Fire Management Under Fire (Adapting to Change): Proceedings of the 1994 Interior West Fire Council Meeting and Program, Coeur d'Alene, ID, International Association of Wildland Fire.

39) Latham, D. J. (1994). "PLUMP: A plume predictor and cloud model for fire managers" ; General Technical Report INT-GTR-314, Intermountain Research Station, USDA Forest Service, Ogden, UT.

40) Vonnegut, B., D.J. Latham, C.B. Moore, and S.J. Hunyadi, "An explanation for anomalous lightning from forest fire clouds", Journal of Geophysical Research, V.100, pp5037-5050, 1995.

41) Latham, D.J., and T. Beer, "Australian-American Match Tests", USDA Forest Service Research Note INT-RN-426, Intermountain Research Station, USDA, March 1995.

42) Latham, D. J., "Roots of Artificial Intelligence", Appendix A, pp335-347, in: Building Knowledge-Based Systems for Natural Resource Management, D.L. Schmoldt and H.M. Rauscher, Chapman and Hall, New York, NY, 1996..

43) Catchpole, W. R. et al. (1998). "Rate of Spread of Free-Burning Fires in Woody Fuels in a Wind Tunnel", Combustion Science and Technology

44) Latham, D.J., "High speed photography of fires", Second Symposium on Fire and Forest Meteorology, American Meteorological Society, 11-16 Jan, 1998, Phoenix, AZ.

45) Hoadley, J. and D.J. Latham, "Toward an Objective Approach to Forecasting Lightning Activity". In: Second Symposium on Fire and Forest Meteorology, 11-16 Jan 1998, Phoenix AZ. AMS, pp24-26. 1998.

46) Latham, D.J., "Near infrared spectral lines in natural fires". III International Conference on Forest Fire Research, 14th Conference on Fire and Forest Meteorology, V.1, pp 513-515, Luso, Portugal, 16-20 Nov, 1998.

47) Latham, D.J., and E. Williams, "Lightning and Forest Fires", Ch 11 pp 375-418, in Forest Fires: Behavior and Ecological Effects, E.A. Johnson and K. Miyanishi, eds, Academic Press, New York, NY, 2001.

48) Vodacek, A., Kremens, R.L., Fordham, A.J., VanGorden, S.C., Luisi, D., Schott, J.R., and Latham, D.J., 2002, "Remote optical detection of biomass burning using a potassium emission signature", Int. J. Remote Sensing, 23, 2721-2726.

49) Clark T. L., M. Griffiths, M. J. Reeder, D. Latham, "Numerical simulations of grassland fires in the Northern Territory, Australia: A new subgrid-scale fire parameterization", J. Geophys. Res., 108 (D18), 4589, doi:10.1029/2002JD003340, 2003.

50) Butler, B.W., J. Cohen, D.J. Latham, R.D. Schuette, P. Sopko, K.S. Shannon, D. Jiminez, and L. S. Bradshaw, “"Measurement of radiant emissive power and temperatures in crown fires", Canadian Journal of Forest Research, V.34, pp 1577-1587, 2004.

51) Clark, T.L., J. Coen, and D. Latham, "Description of a coupled atmosphere-fire model", Int. Journ. Of Wildland Fire, V13, pp49-63,2004.