Event: Materials Science and Engineering Seminar

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Tickle College of Engineering

Department of Materials Science and Engineering Seminar

"The Gatlinburg Firestorm of 2016 and the Role of Materials Science"


Henri Grissino-Mayer

Henri Grissino-Mayer, PhD
James R. Cox Professor
Department of Geography
University of Tennessee, Knoxville
Knoxville, TN

2:15 p.m. Tuesday, April 18, 2017

Room 307, Science and Engineering Research Facility


On November 28, 2016, a wildfire on a remote mountain in Great Smoky Mountains National Park began what can only be described as an unprecedented northward race that lasted only a few hours and covered 5.5 miles, until eventually reaching the border of the national park. Unfortunately, this particular portion of the park border was occupied by the scenic mountain village and well-known tourist destination and ski resort of Gatlinburg, Tennessee. Beginning at 5:00 in the afternoon, the wildfire would race uncontrolled through and around Gatlinburg, burning 2000 structures,, including private residences, businesses, resorts, and churches. But the wildfire did not stop there. The fire moved northward, burning the landscape until eventually reaching Pigeon Forge, home of Dollywood, until rain that evening put an end to the catastrophe. Fourteen lives were lost. About 2,400 buildings were destroyed of which 2000 were residential homes. The communities are now re-building with private homes springing up quickly, but what materials are being used in this re-building process? The communities adhere to the International Building Code, but is this enough? Could Materials Science help inform the residents, business leaders, community leaders, commissioners, and policy makers on how best to re-build, especially in communities that exist in the Wildland-Urban Interface and which should actually be adhering to the International Wildland-Urban Interface Code of 2015?


Henri D. Grissino-Mayer is a Professor in the Department of Geography at the University of Tennessee, Knoxville, and Director of the Laboratory of Tree-Ring Science. He studies ecosystem disturbance processes and uses dendrochronology, the science of tree rings, to learn how environments have changed over time. His research concentrates on using tree-ring data to analyze the history of wildfires, the history of past climate, and the dating of historic structures and objects. He has given nearly 500 professional presentations and invited talks and published over 130 peer-reviewed papers. He was awarded the Chancellor's Award for Professional Promise in 2005, the Chancellor's Award for Extraordinary Service in 2009, the College of Arts and Sciences' Senior Research Award in 2013, and the Geographic Excellence in Media Award in 2014 from the National Council for Geographic Education. Just this past month, he was awarded a James R. Cox Professorship at the University of Tennessee. He has appeared in television documentaries and news stories shown on CNN International, the History Channel, BBC Television, the Discovery Channel, the National Geographic Channel, the Learning Channel, the Weather Channel, Court TV, and many local stations. In recent months, Grissino-Mayer has been sought after for interviews, news stories, and documentaries about the Gatlinburg firestorm, which he had long predicted based on his and his colleagues' research on fire history.


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Department of Materials Science and Engineering
Tickle College of Engineering
414 Ferris Hall
1508 Middle Drive, Knoxville, TN 37996-2100
P: 865-974-5336
F: 865-974-4115
W: mse.utk.edu
E: mse@utk.edu

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