8.5 NOAA Fire Weather Science and Technology Program: Emphasis on Improved Fire Weather Tools for IMETs and Firefighters

Wednesday, 6 May 2015: 4:15 PM
Great Lakes Ballroom (Crowne Plaza Minneapolis Northstar)
Peter Roohr, NOAA/NWS, Silver Spring, MD; and R. Heffernan, H. Hockenberry, T. McClung, S. Schranz, E. Jacks, and L. VanBussum

The vision of the National Weather Service Fire Weather program is the development and provision of high-resolution fire weather information and services, in close collaboration with agency partners. Recently, NOAA and land management agencies have reinvigorated efforts to improve research and research to operations (R2O) efforts under the umbrella of new agreements such as the USFS-NOAA MOU for Fire Weather Research and the NOAA Fire Weather R2O Plan. The ultimate goal is to minimize firefighter fatalities due to unpredicted fire behavior, and to mitigate the property losses due to wildfires.

Currently NWS fire weather operations consist of regional/extended guidance provided by the Storm Prediction Center, forecasts provided by local Weather Forecast Offices, and tailored support from over 120 Incident Meteorologists (known as IMETs); they are equipped with laptops that use satellite communications or wireless protocols to bring in weather data and products. The laptops have Thin Client software loaded on them, allowing the IMETs to process and view weather data via the same system (known as Advanced Weather Interactive Processing System, AWIPS) that they use at their home forecast offices. NWS maintains efforts to mitigate the gap of limited observations, which are critical to preventing damage and loss of life due to changing fire lines, flare ups due to dramatic drops in relative humidity and moisture, and wind-driven fire shards that cause new fires. NWS is also working with the satellite community and the Office of Oceanic and Atmospheric Research (OAR) to ensure IMETs are ready for new products from geostationary and polar-orbiting satellites which have higher spatial, spectral and temporal resolution; these new products will improve the real-time detection of new fires and changes in intensification of active fires. Meteorologists at the National Centers for Environmental Prediction (NCEP) are improving the resolution of weather models as well as their ability to identify changes in wind direction and speed over varying topography; small model windows with 1-km resolution will greatly help IMETs in the field. There is an objective to take improved weather prediction and improve the detail and specificity of Red Flag Warnings, such as indexing to portray where higher priority areas are so that resources can be better placed. One side effect of fires that causes many problems with health and safety is smoke. Scientists are continually analyzing higher resolution, coupled models to better predict the interaction of smoke and weather conditions below 4 km resolution. The most difficult tasks for scientists are the development of a coupled Fire-Scale Model that will take into account fire impacts on the atmosphere and vice versa at incredibly small scale resolutions of 100 or fewer meters as well as an objective tool that enables forecasters to pinpoint the effects of winds on various segments of a fireline. This is a new realm of science, already being addressed by scientists from NOAA, academia and the private sector, will take much research and verification to ensure a viable objective tool for IMETs by 2016.

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