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NOAA NATIONAL WEATHER SERVICE INCIDENT METEOROLOGISTS VOLUNTEER TO HELP AUSTRALIA BATTLE MASSIVE WILDFIRES

NOAA satellite image of wildfires in New South Wales in Australia taken on Jan. 9, 2007, at 10:55 p.m. EST.Feb. 8, 2007 The first group of NOAA National Weather Service Incident Meteorologists, or IMETS, arrived in Australia to provide fire weather support for the Australian Bureau of Meteorology. According to Australia's Department of Sustainability and Environment, 1.2 million acres in the country's southern states have been consumed by wildfires during the last six months. (Click NOAA satellite image for larger view of wildfires in New South Wales in Australia taken on Jan. 9, 2007, at 10:55 p.m. EST. Click here for high resolution version. Please credit “NOAA.”)

In the wake of the worst drought Australia has experienced in more than a century, the massive blazes have been blamed for the deaths of at least a dozen people; tens of thousands of farm and wild animals; the destruction of hundreds of homes and thousands of acres of forest; widespread power outages; and, they have stretched the nation's firefighting ability to capacity.

NOAA image of Graham Mills, of the Australia Bureau Research Division, discussing a frontal system training case for Hobart, Tasmania, which was part of induction training courses for forecasters arriving in Australia.Meteorological support for the thousands of firefighters in the field also has been stretched to the limit, prompting the Australian Bureau of Meteorology to request help from the NOAA National Weather Service. Twelve volunteer IMETS are scheduled to provide fire weather support over the next several months. (Click NOAA image for larger view of Graham Mills, of the Australia Bureau Research Division, discussing a frontal system training case for Hobart, Tasmania, which was part of induction training courses for forecasters arriving in Australia. Click here for high resolution version. Please credit “NOAA.”)

Each group of four IMETS will spend approximately three weeks on location in three weather forecast offices across Australia. Along with their Australian counterparts, they will be responsible for providing critical forecasts on temperature, humidity, wind speed and direction for fire managers in Victoria, New South Wales and Tasmania. Up-to-date, accurate weather reports are critical to field commanders responsible for developing the safest, most efficient fire control strategies.

NOAA image of Heath Hockenberry (right) discussing a case study presentation with Roger Deslandes from the Australian Bureau Training Division.IMETs provide tailored weather forecasts as part of a flexible and dynamic Incident Command System that provides the support structure needed to manage critical fire and all-hazards situations in a coordinated and safe manner, according to Heath Hockenberry, national fire weather program manager at the National Interagency Fire Center in Boise, Idaho. "Safety is the cornerstone of the IMET mission, and the Incident Command System recognizes that situational awareness derived from weather forecasts is essential," said Hockenberry. "In Australia, the forecasting volunteers will assist their Australian forecasting partners in providing information to keep Incident Command Teams and fire crews safe." (Click NOAA image for larger view of Heath Hockenberry (right) discussing a case study presentation with Roger Deslandes from the Australian Bureau Training Division. Click here for high resolution version. Please credit “NOAA.”)

"This is an unusual opportunity to work with international partners in a real emergency situation," said Hockenberry. "I'm certain our IMETS will provide excellent service and assistance to the skilled and dedicated Australian fire weather forecasters."

February is typically the hottest and driest month in Australia. The Australian Bureau of Meteorology anticipates a continuing high level of fire danger in the weeks and months ahead.

NOAA, an agency of the U.S. Commerce Department, is celebrating 200 years of science and service to the nation. From the establishment of the Survey of the Coast in 1807 by Thomas Jefferson to the formation of the Weather Bureau and the Commission of Fish and Fisheries in the 1870s, much of America's scientific heritage is rooted in NOAA. NOAA is dedicated to enhancing economic security and national safety through the prediction and research of weather and climate-related events and information service delivery for transportation, and by providing environmental stewardship of the nation's coastal and marine resources. Through the emerging Global Earth Observation System of Systems (GEOSS), NOAA is working with its federal partners, more than 60 countries and the European Commission to develop a global monitoring network that is as integrated as the planet it observes, predicts and protects.

Relevant Web Sites
NOAA Fire Information Center

NOAA National Fire Forecasts, Offices and Outlooks

NOAA Fire Weather Forecasts

NOAA Satellite Images of Fire Events

Media Contact:
Ron Trumbla, NOAA National Weather Service Southern Region, (817) 978-1111 ext. 140