Spatial and temporal characteristics of elevated temperatures in municipal solid waste landfills

Navid H. Jafari, Timothy D Stark, Todd Thalhamer

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Elevated temperatures in waste containment facilities can pose health, environmental, and safety risks because they generate toxic gases, pressures, leachate, and heat. In particular, MSW landfills undergo changes in behavior that typically follow a progression of indicators, e.g., elevated temperatures, changes in gas composition, elevated gas pressures, increased leachate migration, slope movement, and unusual and rapid surface settlement. This paper presents two MSW landfill case studies that show the spatial and time-lapse movements of these indicators and identify four zones that illustrate the transition of normal MSW decomposition to the region of elevated temperatures. The spatial zones are gas front, temperature front, and smoldering front. The gas wellhead temperature and the ratio of CH4 to CO2 are used to delineate the boundaries between normal MSW decomposition, gas front, and temperature front. The ratio of CH4 to CO2 and carbon monoxide concentrations along with settlement strain rates and subsurface temperatures are used to delineate the smoldering front. In addition, downhole temperatures can be used to estimate the rate of movement of elevated temperatures, which is important for isolating and containing the elevated temperature in a timely manner.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)286-301
Number of pages16
JournalWaste Management
StatePublished - Jan 1 2017


  • Fire
  • Landfill
  • Municipal solid waste
  • Rapid oxidation
  • Smoldering combustion
  • Temperature

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Waste Management and Disposal

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