Sources of Weather Information

Ordinarily, four sources of weather information are available. Use one or more of them before and during prescription fires. The sources are:

  • NATIONAL WEATHER SERVICE
  • STATE FORESTRY AGENCIES
  • LOCAL OBSERVATIONS
  • PRIVATE WEATHER FORECASTING SERVICES

Local National Weather Service offices will furnish weather forecasts and outlooks via radio and television. Spot weather forecasts are also available, but their value depends upon the forecaster's knowledge of local conditions. Inexpensive radios are also available that continually monitor National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) weather-related information and forecast updates. Do not rely solely on the NOAA broadcasts because this information is not specific enough for smoke-management planning.

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Knowledge of weather is essential

The best source of information including current forecasts and outlooks is generally the local office of your State forestry agency. The person you talk to can often help you interpret the forecast, give you any warnings, and pass on pertinent information such as other burns planned for that day, The prescribed burner should take full advantage of such services.

All southern State forestry agencies and national forests, as well as many military bases and private concerns operate fire-danger stations. The basic weather parameters measured at these sites are very useful. However, National Fire Danger Rating System (NFDRS) indices, which are calculated from these measurements, should not be used. This system was designed to provide a worst-case scenario for wildfire control over very large areas, more specifically the northwest. It was not designed as a planning tool for prescribed burning!

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The belt weather kit and additional wind meter

Weather observations should be made at the prescribed burn site immediately before, during and immediately after a fire. Such observations are important because they serve as a check on the applicability of the forecast and keep the burning crew up-to-date on any local influences or changes. Take readings in a similar area upwind of the fire to avoid heating and drying effects of the fire. Do this at I- to 2- hour intervals, or more often if changes in fire behavior are noticed. Measurements taken in an open area, on a forest road, and in a stand are likely to differ widely. Easy-to-use belt weather kits that include a psychrometer and an anemometer are available. By using this kit and observing cloud conditions, a competent observer can obtain a fairly complete picture of the current weather.

  psychrometer and an anemometer are available. By using this kit and observing cloud conditions, a competent observer can obtain a fairly complete picture of the current weather.