PNWCG/NWS BI-ANNUAL WEATHER MEETING
NORTHWEST COORDINATION CENTER
DECEMBER 17, 2001
Scott WeishaarNWS PDX503-326-2420
Chris HillNWS SEW206-526-6095 ext 222
Terry MarshaGACC BIA503-808-2756
John LivingstonWS GEG 509-244-0110 ext 222
Steve ToddNWS PDX
Larry Van BussumNIFC
Mike provided a brief overview of meeting topics. Mike asked for additional agenda items; none were added. Paul continued with an introduction to NWCC and the facilities.
Agenda Item 1: Fire Weather Zone Change and Program Transfer Proposal
The NWS is proposing fire weather zone changes and forecast office responsibility changes for certain zones. Scott B. distributed map showing proposed future fire weather forecast ones (attachment 5). Each office discussed proposed zone changes affecting its operations.
PDT: Bob reviewed Pendleton zone changes (attachment 6): PDT would take over SE Washington, give up 636 to Boise. Zone 636 southern boundary would be dropped south to HWY 20. Some question as to Burns BLM feeling/reaction. Consensus was that the change is good, even though it requires two forecasts. PDT picks up 681 zone (alpine area.) 675 is one larger zone now. Benton/Franklin counties in Washington are in 631 – making the zone go from Hood River to Lewiston. Question about Zone 632. Should it be divided? Bob felt that climatologically it should stay as one zone. Agreement reached that 632 would not be divided.
ACTION ITEM: BOI/PDT will contact Burns BLM by January 4, 2002 to receive input on the changes.
GEG: John L. reviewed Spokane zone changes (attachment 7). Yakama Reservation and Fire center go to Pendleton. Other change divides lowlands and highlands into 2 separate zones. Seattle is taking Cascade National Park.
SEW: John W. reviewed Seattle zone changes. Three changes are proposed: (1) Give up Pacific Co. to Portland. Small part of Lewis Co. would also go into 601. Cowlitz Co. would go to zone 602. (2) In Olympic Peninsula, the zone is divided to an east (dry) side and a west (wet) side. (3) Pick up N. portion of Cascade Pass from Spokane.
ACTION ITEM: Spokane will contact SE WA DNR for concurrence. Seattle will contact N. Cascade/NPS and DNR/Olympia by January 4, 2002.
PQR: John S. reviewed the proposed Portland zone changes. East slopes of the Cascades broken into three zones (formerly 609 and 610) and would be numbered 609, 610 and 611 (north to south.) Zone 601 would now break at Tillamook Co. Zone 612 will be a new south zone and 601 remains in the north. Why split the existing 601? Goal to give better resolution to the winds. Southern boundary of the new 612 was discussed too, but no changes are proposed. ODF hasn’t been contacted on these changes, yet. John said the changes are small for ODF, and shouldn’t be a problem. Mike asked that ODF offices be contacted for concurrence. Discussion ensued about re-numbering the whole region. Resolution was that re-numbering should wait until we’ve stabilized the zones.
ACTION ITEM: Scott W. or John S. will contact ODF- coast and east side to learn their opinion/concerns. They will also contact Walker Range by January 4, 2002 for concurrence.
MFR: Fredrick reviewed Medford zone changes. Rogue River and Siskiyou zones should follow natural boundaries of the forests. This causes zones 620 and 621 to extend into California. For clarification, the proposed map has an error. Zone 622’s southern border (zone 621’s northern border) is missing on the map and should be drawn in.
ACTION ITEM: NWS could change zone numbers and boundaries as discussed above if there are no objections from field users. Scott B. will have all map changes to the WWT by January 4, 2002. Goal is to have new maps published by April 1, 2002. NEW ZONES WILL BE EFFECTIVE APRIL 1, 2002. (Ops Plan Switch Occurs April 1)
General discussion about the need to change weather station catalogs for stations that will be in the new zones. We need to let the field know that work needs to be done.
ACTION ITEM: (WHO????) will contact field offices regarding catalog changes for fire weather stations by January 4, 2002.
Agenda Item 2:Red Flag
Preliminary 2001 Red Flag Warning Verification
Red Flag Warning Criteria
Scott B. began the discussion with a review of 2001 watches and warnings. The number of Fire Weather Watches did not exceed the Red Flags issued. 44 FWWs and 59 red flag warnings were issued. Seattle Issued None. Pendleton had lead-time of just above 7 hours and Boise's was 4.5 hours. Average is 9 hours. For dry thunderstorms, 2 hours is goal; for wind events 7 hours. Both were discussed further. Graphs of preliminary numbers were provided. (Attachment 1,2,3). Jan 31st is date for final numbers.
Terry felt we need to get criteria in line with our observations. He believed the number issued were fine. He believes we should spend a day or two going over zones/criteria with any office interested. He expressed the need for tools for forecasting and the need for meeting criteria.
Paul discussed his verification handout (attachment 4), which included the August 12 dry lightning storms. He believes that conference calls were useful. POD was not as useful of a statistic this year; some stations have wind every day. FAR and the number of warnings improved from 2000, especially at Pendleton.
Roddy offered that the improvement rate helps us verify that its o.k. to spend 60 thousand dollars to pre-position, because the event is inevitable.
Paul suggested that questions remain about how dry lightning is defined. He suggested developing an algorithm based on MM5.
Fredrick questioned how much weight can we place on the statement from the field re the occurrence of dry lightning? Group response: Not much. We want to avoid subjective type data, if possible. Subjective data should not be used for verification purposes.
Scott asked what the criteria is/should be and how do we verify the occurrence. One suggestion from Bob was to use RH and lightning. A dew point of <40 is used in Zone 636. What about the nocturnal cases? Perhaps the same criteria will work, because humidity recovery in these cases are terrible too. Paul suggested that we need to evaluate the condition of the fuels too. Use climatology and fire history to determine the criteria.
Discussion followed on how to approach the criteria setting. Terry suggests that this should be fixed one office at a time. Too many people hinder the process. You’ll never get all to agree. John W. asked if we are we limited to just the RAWS stations? There was no clear direction from the group.
Other miscellaneous comments: Definitions were questioned. Terry suggested that it is up to us to define “Dry Lightning.” Research programs should meld in to what we design, not the reverse.
Mike F. offered that the definition and use of the term is not an isolated problem. Somewhere down the road the dry lightning prediction is going to need to be integrated with the resource availability, aiding the predictions of project-size fires. Roddy offered that we must consider scale on a situational basis, the criteria though need to be established firmly. Resources are lined-up when dry lightning is forecast. That’s why the verification numbers are important. Proof of taxpayers dollars put to good use. The movement of air tankers and use of other resources is also dependent upon good forecasts, thus requiring a good understanding and use of criteria, definitions, and verification. Terry questioned if it really matters if we call it "dry lightning" or just "lightning?" Answer by Roddy is an emphatic yes, especially once verification is in place.
ACTION ITEMS: 1) Scott B. will provide final verification numbers by January 31, 2002.
2) WFOs should work with Terry, using his data, to develop verification statistics.
3) Reconvene the WWT Task Group (created earlier this year) resume work on the issue. Task smaller sub-groups to work with the WWT and WFOs on criteria for each forecast area. Then, reconvene the entire Task Group to develop the standard and seemless red flag critieria. Dry lightning criteria would be the primary focus. Then, check with the field routinely to see if the criteria are working. Suggested that the Task Group group get together in January, 2002.
Agenda Item 3: Daily Fire Weather Coordination Call
Chris related that the calls started out a little rocky but got better as the season went on. Challenges are to limit how much time is spent on the call, and to spell out what should be talked about. There is also an issue of whether CPC will participate in future. Paul W. stated that CPC learned how much the extended forecast was really being used. CPC was included daily during this (2001) severe fire season, but perhaps they should not be included each year. This may be a waste of their time during a normal fire season. Terry suggested alerting them that we’ll be calling them from time to time, during critical times of the season. Non-scheduled contact could take place, but they need to be asked first, and they should be given some notice. When involving them, we are more concerned with their expertise- their “gut instincts” about situations. Good idea to write to them asking/telling them what we are looking for. We do need more value added input from CPC when they participate.
Paul W suggested that it would be beneficial to use a form for note taking; some means of documenting the significant reports from each area. Bob offered that Seattle may not be the best to start briefings since their weather didn’t apply to the pressing issues like dry lightning storms occurring down south. Instead we should start with the offices that have weather conditions. This would shorten things up. John W stressed the importance of “passing” if there isn’t anything significant happening in a forecast area.
Paul W offered that the start up date should be flexible. Rather start later rather than sooner. Importance of a daily routine is still there, but this would save time. Also, fuels information is important topic to be discussed on the call.
All: The challenge is to remember that this is a coordination call, not a daily briefing.
ACTION ITEM: 1) Adjustments will be made as to the order of speaking and the daily summary, based on each day’s unique weather. NWCC will coordinate this based on where the weather and action is expected.
2) Add fuel information to the content of the calls. It is very important, acreage burned isn’t as important.
3) Calls will continue. Start and end dates for the calls will be flexible.
4) CPC will be used on an as needed basis. Paul will draft expectations for CPC before fire season begins and send to them. Advance notice will be given to CPC for days when their participation is desired.
5) Individual offices will be responsible for any note taking they need or require..
AGENDA ITEM 4: IMET Conference Calls
Paul asked that the GACC be included in IMET conference calls for coordination purposes. Scott B. reviewed the history behind the calls. In the past, 3 IMETs in one WFO area qualify the need for a call per NWS policy. The purpose is to coordinate with the WFO. WRH participates mainly for equipment related issues. After a Montana service assessment, the call was deemed very important. In his opinion, coordination with the GACC occurs during daily calls but if the GACC wants to participate in IMET call too, that would be fine. New questions arise as to who else would like to participate. Also, we need to remember that the primary function is to check if equipment is functioning properly.
Terry offered that the GACC should probably know what the IMET’s are saying, including information from 209 reports. Bob felt that either IMET needs to be on GACC call or GACC needs to be on IMET, but not. Need to streamline cooridnation and fewer calls are better.
John S asked if the GACC doesn’t participate passively anyway? If they don’t mind taking the time, then its probably o.k. The “how confident are you” component is introduced in a live call, an element that is missing in a written forecast.
ACTION ITEM: GACC can participate in the IMET conference calls. They are to passively participate, unless a clarification is needed. IMET participates in the GACC conference call at their discretion. Scott B. will initiate the IMET calls.
Agenda Item 5: NWS Policy of Updating Spot Weather Forecasts
Agenda Item 6: The Internet Spot Forecast Request Form
(topics discussed together)
Roddy described a crtical burn situation that occurred this year. Facts: Prescribed burn on Hart Mtn. Refuge east of Lakeview. Humidity didn’t recover. Prescribed burn was lost over night. Took off for a few thousand acres. Now the USFW is investigating. One issue arose: spot forecast came out at 11 am, and talked about eye-level winds only, not 20 ft. winds. Why does the web form have an eye-level wind item, but not a 20-ft. request? What is the policy for updating the spot forecast as it applies to a prescribed burn? How do you get the information to the field in regions of poor communication?
Scott B. asked how difficult is it to put both eye-level and 20 ft parameters on the web? Bruce related that 20-ft. wind at 10-min intervals was decided upon last year. Eye-level winds are good for direction only. Pendleton forecasts for 20-ft winds. Bob said he is teaching his customers to use 20-ft winds and calculating from this.
Roddy asked if there is a process and policy for follow-up on the spot forecasts? Scott B. read from NWS documents. There is not a real clear rule. He’ll clean up the wording on the rules to ensure that the forecast is updated as needed. Suggestions were offered to clarify the process and requirements. John S. suggested adding a disclaimer on the form, for the “duration of this forecast.” Another suggestion was that the form should have a spot that requires the field to call in previous to the burn to be sure the forecast still holds true. Roddy suggested that 3-hour increments be used and Medford uses 1-hour increments. The AOP doesn’t say anything about updating forecasts.
Mike Z. asked that revisions to the form be completed by Mid-March so that the revised form can go into the mobilization plan.
ACTION ITEM: 1) NWS (Tim) will add 20-ft winds as an option on the forms. Further discussion will ensue regarding putting this on the national forms.
2) Group agreed that the following wording will become a part forecast requirements of the Annual Operating Plan: Include 20-foot winds, clarify when forecasts would be updated and the time increment before they become invalid.
3) All edits should be done and the (internet) spot request form available by March 15th
AGENDA ITEM 7: 2002 AOP
The group discussed the development of the 2002 AOP. Need to resolve who is going to compile this year, and who is responsible for printing? The system didn't work as well as intended in 2001. Information submitted to the GACC was inconsistent in format; incomplete; not timely. There was confusions on individual offices sending material.
The group discussed possible solutions on to what system would work best. Paul looked into the ROMLs, Appendix C as a reference. He said looked like an appendix was added. Bruce suggested identifying one WFO to compile the information and send it on to the GACC. General consensus was that all want to see it before it goes on to the GACC for final printing.
WFO's agreed upon a schedule for offices that would assume NWS responsibility for compiling NWS information and assembling the document. The following schedule will be used for the next five years.
Mike Z. suggested that we don't publish the document, but make it available on the Web. General consensus was that the document would be converted to PDF format and we'd only print copies as necessary. The PDF document would be hosted on the GACC web site. The printing would be done at WRH only if necessary, with coordination provided by PQR. Steve asked what the process is for sending this plan on to Mike Z (for the WWT)? If GAAC will send it to Steve, he will review it and send it on to Mike. If he needs to make changes he will contact the appropriate office or individual.
Timeline for completion was discussed and the following was agreed to by the group:
WFOs have info To PQR - Mid February
PQR have it To WWT - March 1st
Conversion complete and publish - March 15th
ACTION ITEM: Portland will do the compiling. It was moved to have this also discussed at the February meeting to see if there are any problems and to check on the status/progress. GACC will host the AOP on its web site.