778 Relevance of the Oklahoma Mesonet for Impact-Based Decision Support: Current State and Outlook for the OK-FIRE Program

Tuesday, 9 January 2018
Exhibit Hall 3 (ACC) (Austin, Texas)
Monica O. Mattox, Univ. of Oklahoma, Norman, OK; and J. R. Ziolkowska

The OK-FIRE program and decision-support system is a part of the Oklahoma Mesonet - a world-class network of 121 automated weather stations that has provided statewide real-time data, products, and decision-support tools to Oklahomans for over 20 years. Both the Oklahoma Mesonet as a whole and all its programs (including OK-FIRE) continue to grow and evolve in response to technological and scientific advances, as well as an increased need for improved communication and operational data/decision-support tools for its end-users. In addition to disseminating free, quality-assured weather data to the public via its website and app, it also serves many diverse industries including agriculture, public safety, government, research, education, business, and media, among others. While the benefits of the Oklahoma Mesonet and the OK-FIRE program have been qualitatively identified in many studies in the past, research is still limited on quantitative evaluations of the network and its respective decision-support programs. Also, studies are missing on the relevance of the OK-FIRE program for Impact-Based Decision Support subject to technological changes occurring over time. This research aims to address these questions in the context of impact-based decision support tools integrated with the diverse meteorological and climatological models in the field. It will discuss needs, challenges, and advantages of OK-FIRE by building upon the study by Ziolkowska et al. (2017) that evaluated societal and economic benefits, beneficiaries, and multi-sectoral ripple effects from the Oklahoma Mesonet. The importance of this research arises from the fact that more than half of the land in Oklahoma is comprised of wildlands with roughly 2 million acres of it being burned every year. The OK-FIRE program and decision-support system provides past, current, and predicted fire weather variables and management tools that are used for wildfire suppression, prescribed burning, and smoke management. The system generates direct benefits to Oklahoma Forestry Services, Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation, fire departments, emergency managers, and federal agencies such as the Bureau of Indian Affairs and the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service. Lessons learned from this research can be used in other regions, nationally and internationally, especially in countries and states that have considered the implementation of Mesonet networks.
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