Animated wildfire smoke forecast

The New South Wales Rural Fire Service in Australia sent this interesting tweet today — an animated wildfire smoke forecast. I have not seen this distributed to the public in the United States.

After you start the video and click on the arrows at the bottom-right, it will fill the screen and you can almost read the names of the geographic features. So obviously it needs a better background map (and maybe fewer wind direction arrows that clutter the image) but it has potential for keeping the public informed about wildfire smoke.

Monitoring wildfire smoke, to reduce health impacts

E-BAM
Environmental Beta Attenuation Monitors (E-BAMs) are portable particulate monitoring stations, one of the technological tools used to monitor smoke. They can transmit their data via satellite to a central location for analysis. USFS photo.

From the U.S. Forest Service:

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Smoke from wildfires can have an enormous impact on the public and on fire personnel, affecting health, interfering with transportation safety and upsetting tourism and local economies.

Trent Procter, like all U.S. Forest Service Air Resource Advisors, is a technical specialist with expertise in air quality science, including: air quality monitoring, smoke modeling, pollutant health thresholds and communicating about smoke risks and mitigation.

“Smoke from wildland fire is a significant source of air pollution. It can pose potential risks to health, visibility, safety and general nuisance problems. Forest managers, fire managers and air resource specialists must address these issues when and where appropriate to minimize smoke impacts to public health and welfare,” he explained.

Exposure to smoke is a concern because a large proportion of wildland fire smoke emissions are fine particulate matter that can penetrate to the deepest parts of the lungs.

Air Resource Advisors can be dispatched to an incident to assist with understanding and predicting smoke impacts on the public and on fire personnel. Whenever smoke is a concern, their objective is to provide timely smoke impact and forecast information and messages based on best-available science.

Technology plays a big part in this forecasting process.

“Satellite images, monitoring data and smoke modeling projections all inform the typical smoke forecast,” Procter explained.

The Forest Service works with partner agencies to deploy “real time” monitoring http://app.airsis.com/usfs/fleet.aspx into communities and locations where instant feedback is helpful in keeping the public and health officials informed.  The monitors transmit the smoke concentrations to satellites and then back to web-based tools that help provide the smoke concentrations seen in the forecasts.

Air Resource Advisors work with multiple agencies to address public health concerns, smoke risk to transportation safety and fire personnel exposure, as well as how to reduce and mitigate smoke exposure.

As the Pacific Southwest Region’s Air Quality Manager, Procter’s work takes him throughout the state, and during this year’s drought-fueled wildfire season, he’s been busy coordinating with other agencies for appropriate response to smoke.

“The success in bringing helpful information to the public in California is a credit to our partners at the air pollution control districts and the California Air Resources Board.  The staffs in these agencies are professional and so very dedicated to an emergency response that helps the public reduce or manage their exposure,” he said.

Before igniting a prescribed fire – a fire being used for specific land management objectives – managers must identify smoke-sensitive areas such as communities, hospitals and highways and use appropriate mitigation and evaluation techniques to minimize smoke impacts. Weather, climate and air quality monitoring data are used by fire managers to customize smoke management techniques as needed in these cases.

“In the case of wildfires, where managers have little or no control over what burns, many times it’s a matter of understanding fire behavior, fuel combustion and suppression techniques,” Procter explained.

“That enables us to understand how those features and management actions will play out with weather forecasts and subsequently allow a credible forecast of where smoke will go — or sometimes, more importantly, where it won’t go.  Our recent efforts to improve wildfire smoke forecasting are allowing us to learn much that can improve our smoke management techniques in prescribed fire projects.”

Smoke map and Red Flag Warnings

Smoke map 9-15-15
Map showing the distribution of smoke from wildfires, Sept. 15, 2015. AirNow.

Rain on some of the wildfires in the west has reduced the smoke in those areas to a minimum, while the smoke produced a couple of days ago continues to slowly spread east.

The National Weather Service has issued Red Flag Warnings or Fire Weather Watches for areas in Colorado, Nebraska, and Kansas.

wildfire Red Flag Warnings 9-15-15

 

The Red Flag map was current as of 11:30 a.m. MDT on Tuesday. Red Flag Warnings can change throughout the day as the National Weather Service offices around the country update and revise their forecasts and maps. For the most current data visit this NWS site or this NWS site.

Smoke map and Red Flag Warnings, September 13, 2015

Smoke map 9-13-2105
Smoke, primarily from the Valley Fire and River Complex Fires in California, spreads over much of the west, September 13, 2015. The round brown icons represent the locations of large fires. AirNow.

The National Weather Service has issued Red Flag Warnings or Fire Weather Watches for areas in Wyoming, North Dakota, Idaho, Montana, Washington, and Oregon.

Red Flag Warnings, 9-13-2105

The Red Flag map was current as of 11 a.m. MDT on Sunday. Red Flag Warnings can change throughout the day as the National Weather Service offices around the country update and revise their forecasts and maps. For the most current data visit this NWS site or this NWS site.

Smoke map and Red Flag Warnings

wildfire smoke map
Wildfire smoke map, morning of September 7, 2015. The round brown icons represent the locations of large fires.

The National Weather Service has issued Red Flag Warnings or Fire Weather Watches for areas Wyoming.

Again today, the weather and vegetation are cooperating and confining their extreme conditions within state borders, simplifying the job of fire meteorologists.

wildfire red flag warnings
Red Flag Warnings, September 7, 2015

The Red Flag map was current as of 10:30 a.m. MDT on Monday. Red Flag Warnings can change throughout the day as the National Weather Service offices around the country update and revise their forecasts and maps. For the most current data visit this NWS site or this NWS site.