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HIGH-TECH METEOROLOGY HELPS NOAA FORECAST FIRE WEATHER

NOAA image of IMET Chuck Redman from the NOAA National Weather Service forecast office in Boise, Idaho, setting up the FireRAWS equipment near a wildfire.July 23, 2003 ó On-site weather support from NOAA National Weather Service personnel for hazardous situations, such as wildfires and chemical releases, is critical during such events. Incident Command System weather support, in the form of forecasts and observations, is accomplished by the use of portable special meteorological equipment. This equipment includes the All-hazards Meteorological Response System, the Atmospheric Theodolite Meteorological Unit, and Fire Remote Automated Weather Stations. (Click NOAA image for larger view of IMET Chuck Redman from the NOAA National Weather Service forecast office in Boise, Idaho, setting up the FireRAWS equipment near a wildfire. Click here for high resolution version, which is a large file. Please credit “NOAA.”)

The incident support group of the NOAA National Weather Service is primarily comprised of Incident Meteorologists, or IMETS, who are specially trained to install, operate and maintain the equipment while on-site at remote locations.

All-hazards Meteorological Response Systems
The All-hazards Meteorological Response Systems (AMRS) has been implemented nationally for the summer 2003 wildfire season. The equipment combines advanced computer software and two-way satellite communications.

AMRS provide NOAA meteorologists high-speed access to state-of-the-art weather data when at a remote location without relying on the use of phone lines. The fast download speeds are advantageous for IMETs, since they require large, highly perishable meteorological data sets to perform their jobs. The laptop computers used by the IMETs have the FX-NET software, and they can overlay satellite images and numerical forecast computer models.

NOAA IMETs have completed certified installer training, required by the Federal Communications Commission, for installation of the two-way satellite equipment.

The advanced computer software available with AMRS was developed through a collaborative effort between staff in the NOAA National Weather Service Western Region headquarters in Salt Lake City, Utah, and the NOAA Forecast Systems Laboratories in Boulder, Colo.

FX-NET
The jewel of the IMET’s fire weather computer toolbox is the addition of interactive weather data request and display software, known as FX-NET. The software provides the deployed meteorologists with the ability to use advanced weather processing software to display graphical images and prepare their forecasts, just as if they were performing their duties in one of the nation’s 122 NOAA National Weather Service forecast offices.

IMETs can now access mesoscale numerical models, NOAA satellite imagery, specific wind speed and direction at various heights from the nearby Doppler weather radars or remote sensors by using one software program. In the past, IMETs accessed numerous programs for each needed weather data set. The speed and capability of AMRS allow for better on-site meteorological support, and in the end, increased safety of the personnel handling the hazardous incident.

The AMRS system was first tested by forecasters during the 2002 Olympic Winter Games in Salt Lake City, as well as by IMETs during the 2001 and 2002 wildfire seasons. During these prototype deployments, meteorologists were able to give the system rigorous field testing.

NOAA image of NOAA forecaster Troy Lindquist of the NOAA National Weather Service forecast office in Grand Junction, Colo., using a theodolite to align the angle a weather balloon takes after being launched.Atmospheric Theodolite Meteorological Unit
Atmospheric Theodolite Meteorological Unit or ATMUs have been an essential IMET tool for many years. The ATMU equipment has changed many times over the years, but remains a valuable tool available in the IMET’s toolbox. (Click NOAA image for larger view of NOAA forecaster Troy Lindquist of the NOAA National Weather Service forecast office in Grand Junction, Colo., using a theodolite to align the angle a weather balloon takes after being launched. Please credit “NOAA.”)

The ATMU is composed of a theodolite (an instrument that is used in surveying and is used to find vertical and horizontal angles), tripod, weather balloons and miscellaneous tools for observing wind speed and direction at various heights above the incident location.

Wind forecasts and observation continue to be a very important weather element for wildfire and hazardous materials support, and the ATMU allows the IMET the ability to observe wind aloft by tracking the flight of a weather balloon.

Fire Remote Automated Weather Stations
Fire Remote Automated Weather Stations (FireRAWS) are portable weather stations available to the IMET and incident through the NOAA image of IMET Chuck Redman from the NOAA National Weather Service forecast office in Boise, Idaho, setting up the FireRAWS equipment near a wildfire.management of the Bureau of Land Management. These stations are intended for use on or near the fire line or hazardous materials (hazmat) release, and are easily relocated to points desired by the IMET. The stations continually measure temperature, relative humidity, wind speed and direction, and fuel moisture content. FireRAWS will also alert the forecaster (through two-way radio) of rapidly changing weather conditions, such as strong wind gusts. There are approximately 40 FireRAWS ready for deployment across the country. (Click NOAA image for larger view of IMET Chuck Redman from the NOAA National Weather Service forecast office in Boise, Idaho, setting up the FireRAWS equipment near a wildfire. Click here for high resolution version, which is a large file. Please credit “NOAA.”)

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Relevant Web Sites
NOAA Fire Weather Information Center

NOAA National Weather Service Western Region

NOAA National Fire Weather Page

NOAA Western Red Flag Warnings

NOAA Provides Critical Support to Wildfire Management

Media Contact:
Marilu Trainor, NOAA National Weather Service Western Region, (801) 524-5692 ext. 226