Detailed Point Weather Forecasts:
How to Get Them When You Need Them
Alan Long & Annie Oxarart
SFE Fact Sheet 2011-1
WHY DO I NEED A PRECISE WEATHERFORECAST?
Detailed point weather forecasts are a critical component of fire management planning. Accurate hour-by-hour forecastsfor your exact location are valuable when you are preparingto ignite a prescribed burn and want to compare yourprescription with actual conditions. They also provideimportant weather documentation for your files. They areequally important when you plan suppression strategies foran ongoing wildfire, organize mopup or contingency forces,or decide where to take the kids fishing tomorrow. Preciseweather forecasts help you plan for critical changes andthresholds in relative humidity, wind direction, temperature,and other key weather parameters.Regional and local forecasts are available through sourcessuch as the National Weather Service (NWS), National Oce-anic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) weather ra-dio updates, The Weather Channel, and even local TV sta-tions. Although these resources may provide hour-by-hourforecasts, they generally cover multi-county regions ratherthan being site specific. Several state forestry agencies, suchas the Florida Forest Service and the NWS(www.srh.noaa.gov/jax/?n=spot_instructions) provide spot weather fore-casts for specific locations through online protocols that re-quire information about location and initial weather condi-tions. This factsheet highlights a simple procedure that isavailable through all local NWS websites for obtaining anhourly forecast for the next 48 hours (or longer) at any loca-tion in the South. All you need is internet access.
HOW DO I GET A DETAILED WEATHERFORECAST?
If you do not already have your local NWS office book-marked on your web browser, locate it by clicking on yourapproximate location on the NWS webpage national map(www.nws.noaa.gov), then follow these simple steps.1. On the regional map that appears in the middle of thelocal NWS office webpage, click again over yourgeneral location. The new page lists your approximatelocation at the top, which you can fine tune on the
Detailed Point Forecast
map near the bottom of thepage.2. Once you have precisely pinpointed your fire location(or favorite fishing hole), cli
Hourly Weather Gr
Additional Forecasts &Informati
in the lower right corner of the page.3. The check boxes at the top of the graphs or table allowyou to specify the particular elements and weather pa-rameters you want to see, ranging from relative humidi-ty to mixing height and transport speed. Additionally, just below the check boxes, at the right, is a button thatallows you to extend the forecast another 48 to 96hours, remembering that the longer forecasts may beless accurate.4. Hit t
tton and the graphs or table willdisplay the weather forecast at your exact location. Thetwo screen captures in Figure 1illustrate the graphs andtable version of the same data.An alternative approach to arrive at the same hourly graphsor table is through the NOAA Fire Weather website(http:// srh.noaa.gov/ridge2/fire), another good bookmark! Click thehand icon over your location on the map of North America.Be sure to enlarge the map scale (upper left corner of map)before pinpointing your location. Request the hourly graphsor digital tabular output in the white box in the middle of themap. For graphs of additional parameters (such as mixingheight) that are not on the initial screen, cli
at the top right corner of the 48-hour graphs.