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North America Long-Range Weather Outlook
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Fri, Feb 22, 2019
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About Us

The Rocky Mountain Center (RMC) is one of the five regional members of the US FS Fire Consortia for Advanced Modeling of Meteorology and Smoke (FCAMMS). FCAMMS is supported by Forest Service Research under the National Fire Plan and NOAA. RMC is engaged in a continuous development and deployment of science-based computer applications for real-time delivery of high-resolution fire-weather intelligence and smoke dispersion forecasts over 12 states of the Interior Western USA. Our mission is to provide comprehensive weather support to wildland fire operations, prescribed burns, and air resource management.

Our Mission

The strategic goal of RMC is to:
• Help accomplish agency prescribed burning targets;
• Help burn safer;
• Help burn cleaner and avoid air quality problems;
• Help combat wildfire with relevant weather intelligence;
• Facilitate rapid implementation of new weather information products;
Our long-term vision is to solve problems of fire and smoke management by providing regional simulations of weather and weather-dependent phenomena including fire danger, fire behavior, and smoke dispersion.

Operational Products

We deliver real-time spatially explicit hourly information about current and future values of weather elements such as air temperature, relative humidity, precipitation, cloud cover, wind speed and wind direction, as well as several fire indices (i.e. Ventilation, Haines, Fosberg, and Ketch-Byrum). Weather elements are provided over a large domain covering the entire Western USA. Analysis are produced at 18-km resolution for the Main Domain, and at 6-km resolution for three nested sub-domains (windows) within the main domain covering 12 staes of the the Interior West (i.e. ID, MT, ND, SD, NV, UT, WY, NE, CO, AZ, NM, TX). These regions approximately coincide with territorial units managed by the Eastern Great Basin Area Coordination Center (EGBACC), the Rocky Mountain Area Coordination Center (RMACC), and the Southwest Area Coordination Center (SWACC). Weather forecast extends 72 hours into the future. For selected areas, we deliver mass-balanced meteorological fields scaled down to 90-m resolution to support detailed air quality assessments and fire behavior models such as FARSITE . We currently produce parameter downscaling in real time for Colorado Front Range and Northern Arizona . In addition, we provide real-time smoke dispersion forecast for selected active fires in our domains using the BlueSky Modeling System. We plan to expand our list of operational products to include maps of crucial indices from the National Fire Danger Rating System (NFDRS). Our information products are delivered to consortium members and the general public via the World Wide Web in the form of interactive 2D maps, point observations & point forecasts, and (coming soon) actual 2-D and 3-D data fields.

Methods and Tools

Analysis of observed (past) weather are performed using the Local Analysis and Prediction System (LAPS) supported by the NOAA Forecast Systems Laboratory in Boulder, CO. Weather forecasts are generated by the latest version of the MM5 Community Model jointly developed by the Pennsylvania State University (PSU) and the National Center for Atmospheric Research (NCAR).

LAPS assimilates thousands of meteorological observations every hour from land surface and the upper air (including data from satellite and dopler radar stations) as well as large-scale model output, and interpolates them to a continuos 3-D grid of certain resolution. Data interpolation employs statistical methods as well as algorithms based on laws of atmospheric physics. The analysis produces a consistent mass-balanced 3-D data fields of cloud cover, temperature, water vapor, wind speed and wind direction. These fields are passed to the MM5 model, which performs the temporal integration and produces weather forecast. MM5 is a limited-area, nonhydrostatic, terrain-following sigma-coordinate model designed to simulate 3-D mesoscale atmospheric circulation.

The MM5 model is run twice per day for each one of the four domains using a full interactive nesting scheme. The interpolated 3-D field from the analysis module of LAPS provides initial conditions to the model. Boundary conditions are obtained from the NCEP Eta large-scale model. The LAPS data analysis module provides unique model initialization for all domains by specifying mass-balanced 3D fields of actual cloud cover and precipitable water content during the first hour of simulation. Knows as a Hot Start, this method eliminates the need for model spin-up to achieve diabatic initialization, and allows the production of a reliable forecast from the commence of model simulation. MM5 is executed on a 64-CPU parallel cluster running RedHat Linux 7.3 Operating System. Forecasts of smoke dispersion are produced by the BlueSky Modeling System through a collaboration with the Northwest Regional Modeling Consortium. BlueSky requires forecast meteorological data fields for input that are provided by RMC.

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