Luigi Meccariello1, Stephen Bieda III1, Todd Lindley2, Melissa Beat1, B.J. Simpson1, Chad Gravelle3, Gregory P. Murdoch4, and Bradley R. Smith5
1. NOAA National Weather Service Amarillo, TX
2. NOAA National Weather Service, Norman, OK
3. University of Wisconsin CIMSS/NOAA/NWS/OPG, Kansas City, MO
4. NOAA National Weather Service, Midland, TX
5. Texas A&M Forest Service, Austin, TX
The 6 March 2017 wildfire outbreak on the southern Great Plains burned nearly 1.3 million acres and resulted in seven deaths across southwestern Kansas, the Texas Panhandle, and northwestern Oklahoma. The unprecedented firestorm was characterized by multiple megafires that each scorched hundreds of thousands of acres in a matter of hours. Also unprecedented was the level of tactical decision support provided by National Weather Service meteorologists to emergency and fire management officials utilizing experimental GOES-16 imagery. In-conjunction with collaboration, a new ‘Wildfire Notification Application’ allowed forecasters to provide concise and timely geolocations of new wildfire ignitions detected by GOES-16. Many of these notifications were received by first responder agencies up to fifteen minutes prior to local emergency 911 dispatches. Further dissemination of detailed head fire and rate of spread intelligence derived from GOES-16 data by NWS personnel were conveyed to fire analysts, which affected fire suppression and evacuation efforts on the Dumas Complex Fire in the Texas Panhandle. High-resolution GOES-16 imagery of flank-to-head fire transitions were observed as a cold front swept through the ongoing fires. The GOES-16 Advanced Baseline Imager Red/Green/Blue imagery tuned to sensitivity for wildland fire sampled an apparent rate of spread of 4.9 m s-1 as the Perryton Fire, a megafire that burned 662,687 acres, shifted southward into the Canadian River valley. This remotely detected rate of spread, if confirmed via ground truth, would be near Rothermel’s theoretical extremes.