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Published:July 15th, 2007 08:36 EST
NOAA Incident Meteorologists Providing On-Site Support Forecasts

NOAA Incident Meteorologists Providing On-Site Support Forecasts

By SOP newswire

The combination of record heat, long term drought, record dry fuels, and an outbreak of thunderstorms producing lightning but little rainfall, resulted in a rash of new wildfires across the western and central United States the past few days. These conditions are expected to continue in the West through the week, according to forecasters with NOAA’s National Weather Service.

“The dry thunderstorms responsible for the current wildfires were well forecasted by the National Weather Service," said Roger Lamoni, fire weather program manager for the National Weather Service Western Region. “A consistent message of an approaching critical fire weather pattern was delivered to fire agencies days ahead of the event," Lamoni added.

Once wildfires have started, experienced fire weather forecasters known as Incident Meteorologists (IMETs) are deployed to a fire location to provide tactical support. Currently 17 IMETs are supporting wildfire operations throughout the United States, including one at the Milford Flat fire — the largest fire in Utah’s history.

Western U.S. Expects More Dry Thunderstorms
At NOAA's Storm Prediction Center in Norman, Okla., meteorologists are predicting dry thunderstorms to occur this week in an expanded area from portions of California to Nevada, Oregon, Idaho, Utah and Arizona. NOAA’s Storm Prediction Center produces a national fire weather outlook out to eight days.

“Much of the West is plagued by severe to extreme drought with dry and hot early summer conditions further drying the fuels to record dry levels," explained Phillip Bothwell, senior development meteorologist at NOAA's Storm Prediction Center. “The early fire weather conditions we’re seeing are more like those we would typically see in August."

Portions of the Sierra Mountains in southern California had the second lowest snow pack on record. Los Angeles had the driest period in the 130 years of record keeping from July 1, 2006 to June 30, 2007. Hot temperatures and dry conditions are expected over much of the West this week with little relief.

Relief Possible for Central U.S.
Across the Central U.S, however, forecasts of rain and thunderstorms bode well for agencies battling wild fires in Colorado, South Dakota and Wyoming. National Weather Service forecasts include 20 to 30 percent chances of showers and thunderstorms in some parched areas. Slightly lower temperatures have helped in the battle against fires that started last weekend.

“The stifling heat is getting pushed back for a bit," said Mike Looney, services chief for the National Weather Service Central Region. “Higher humidities and any rain at all would provide relief by putting some moisture in the fuels in the burning areas. At the same time, lightning from storms that don’t produce rain could make matters worse by causing more fires."

Relevant Web Sites
NOAA Fire Weather Information Center

NOAA National Weather Service Western Region

NOAA National Weather Service Central Region

NOAA National Fire Weather Page

NOAA Provides Critical Support to Wildfire Management