Notes From: Southwest Area Operations Plan Meeting
Date: November 15, 2001
Location: Albuquerque, USFS Regional Office
Attendance: 25 people from NWS, fire mgmt. agencies and SWCC
● Graphical forecast presentation (Glen Sampson - NWS Tucson)
○ Emerging technology allowing NWS to produce graphical forecasts using Graphical Forecast Editor (GFE). Graphics are posted on Internet.
○ Each NWS office is developing GFE to best suit its needs and the needs of its customers.
- Great visual presentation
- Can zoom and get point data with mouse click
- Customer has flexibility in the way data are displayed
○ All GFE data will be included in the National Digital Forecast Database (NDFD), which will be used to create seamless national and regional graphics
○ Textual fire weather forecasts will be created from GFE graphics
● Smoke Mgmt. - Would like ventilation data either in spot forecasts or for each zone in FWF
○ Guests Debby Potter and Pete Stewart briefed the group on the increased need for weather information due to more burning and increasingly complex smoke regulation
○ CALPUFF and SASEM smoke models were touched on, as were mesoscale modeling consortiums
○ Request was to begin providing ventilation data in either planning forecasts or spot forecasts
○ Discussion ensued on workload impact and whether info in general or site-specific forecasts were more appropriate
○ Consensus unable to be reached. Issue tabled until spring meeting pending more specific information on requirements. (Action Debby Potter)
● Procedures for fire weather backup when office goes down.
○ NWS has backup plans in place and they should be mostly transparent to fire managers
○ NWS offices will notify SWCC Fire Weather when there are service backup situations
○ Chuck Maxwell will collect information on NWS backup procedures to include in Annual Operations Plan (AOP) for fire mgmt.
● AOP preparation for 2002. Timeline and who responsible?
○ Jim Harrison from NWS Las Vegas will compile 2002 AOP
○ Target date is March 1st, with individual office input to Jim no later than Feb. 15th. Jim will send to Paul Witsaman at SRH for printing.
○ Chuck Maxwell will get numbers from each NWS office as to how many printed copies they want. (So far, 30 for TWC, 30 for PSR, 2 for FLG)
○ Chuck Maxwell will sanitize final AOP and post it to SWCC web site.
● Annual customer meetings.
○ Weather committee re-emphasized importance of organized interaction between NWS and fire mgmt. in building working relationship.
○ So far, only Flagstaff and Tucson offices have had fire weather meetings for their entire forecast areas. Some other offices have attended some fire mgmt. meetings or workshops.
○ NWS agreed to try and hold at least one local area customer meeting per year, preferably in the fall. Notes and issues from such meetings to be sent to Chuck M. To post on SWCC weather committee page.
● Site visits by core forecasters to Rx burns (tied to above).
○ Visits by core forecasters to fires/burns seen as invaluable by weather committee in developing relationship between NWS and fire mgmt.
○ Issue raised of how to pay for travel/expenses for NWS forecasters sent on such visits.
○ Weather committee will encourage ordering of forecasters as “technical resources” to defray costs.
● SWCC Fire Weather Program (Maxwell - 45 mins)
○ Chuck M. gave slide show about role of fire meteorologists at SWCC. Copy will be posted on the SWCC page.
○ Chuck asked what things NWS would like to see from program. Main item was increased weather information in support of Rx fire. Purchase of a number of portable weather stations and training in how to use them should help address this issue.
● Forecast format consistency between offices.
○ Implementation of new NWS policy within the next year will resolve most format differences.
● New forecast points. (NM)
○ Tough to add new forecast points now. Possible within a year or two pending deployment of new NWS technology.
● Forecasters identified on forecast products.
○ Some fire managers would like names on forecast products to help identify forecasters and know who to contact when there are issues.
○ NWS policy does not require this and it can’t be expected. Some offices and forecasters may voluntarily put their names on forecasts.
● Forecasted Haines Index.
○ Already done in NM and parts of west TX.
○ Macro/AWIPS procedure is available to assist forecasters.
○ AZ offices will have to evaluate which levels to use before implementation. Tabled until spring meeting.
● Next day spot forecasts (site-specific outlooks for several days).
○ One of most widespread issues with fire management. Managers desire a written outlook for the next day to assist with site-specific planning and to include in documentation package.
○ NWS policy is that spot forecasts are for first 12-24 hours with outlook for next day. If managers want only a next day outlook, they should call the appropriate office and coordinate with the forecasters on duty.
○ Spot forecast for next-day should only be requested as a last resort. These need to be accompanied by several observations from throughout the day at the burn site.
● GACC mets on-site training/coordination/liaison with NWS offices for Rx burns.
○ Until IMET issue is resolved, MIC’s didn’t have an issue with having SWCC meteorologists on site at a burn as long as it was coordinated with them.
○ Among possible things SWCC mets could do on-site: assist in setup of portable RAWS and training in their use, take observations and interact with local forecast office, facilitate visits by NWS forecasters, identify local weather influences to assist NWS in making spot forecasts, etc.
● Expressions of confidence in forecasts
○ General agreement to try and include expressions of certainty in forecast discussions, especially with regard to critical and/or long term patterns. (I.e. difference between forecast models conflicting or all converging on same solution)
● Notification when Internet spot forecast outages
○ Internet spot page working great, but tough to troubleshoot when there are problems. Everyone is used to it working so well most of the time.
○ Bottom line is all spot requests need to be followed up by a phone call to ensure they were received.
○ SWCC fire weather will notify the fire mgmt. agencies en masse when there are scheduled or confirmed outages.
○ NWS will notify SWCC fire weather when they are aware of outages.
● SWA IMET rotation
○ Discussion held over whether a strict rotation would allow for better management of IMET resources. NWS Phoenix proposed a rotation that would send first available IMET on rotation list to any fire in SWA.
○ Weather committee felt strongly about “closest available resource” approach, which gives best chance for IMET with knowledge of local weather effects to be on an incident. Committee is supportive of strict rotation approach for use of SWA IMETs on incidents outside the geographic area.
○ Any rotation or special arrangements for IMET dispatch need to be kept simple so that dispatchers detailed in from other areas don’t have problems.
○ A rotation will likely require standards for IMET response to be effective (i.e. 2 hours fill or kill and 12 hours from dispatch to incident)
○ Decision made to consider the issue over the winter and revisit at spring meeting.
● Travel arrangements for IMETs
○ Deemed a non-issue .
● GACC weather summaries and coordination with local offices
○ SWCC fire weather will call NWS offices and talk to the forecaster on duty on a case by case basis if there is a critical fire weather event pending or there are significant differences between forecasts for adjacent areas.
● Consistency in 20ft./10 min. wind calculations
○ Issue with differences between airport winds and those used in NWS public forecasts vs. RAWS winds and those used in fire weather forecasts.
○ NWS agreed to reduce airport/zone forecast winds by a standard 5 mph when translating them to RAWS/fire weather forecasts winds.
○ Reduction for sustained winds only, with gusts remaining the same.
● Standardize Red Flag criteria with regard to wind speed. GACC verification of RFW's from SWCC.
○ Tabled until spring meeting due to differing verification methodology and lack of time.
● List of RAWS and METAR stations for each FWF zone
○ NWS offices in AZ will provide list of RAWS and airport locations in each fire weather zone to Chuck Maxwell at SWCC.
● NWS access to ASCADS, WIMS, Fire Weather Plus software.
○ Chuck Maxwell will coordinate with NWS offices to get them ASCADS and WIMS accounts and Fire Weather Plus software.
● Next meeting tentatively scheduled for Feb. 6, 2002.