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Project ID: 12-1-05-3

Year: 2012

Date Started: 07/01/2012

Ending Date:  06/30/2015

Title: Verification of Spot Fire Weather Forecasts

Project Proposal Abstract: The proposed work will assess the degree of improvement provided by spot and incident fire weather forecasts as compared to National Digital Forecast Database (NDFD) forecasts and provide a methodology to verify fire weather forecasts nationally. The expected benefits from this project include: 1) improved forecast accuracy of spot forecasts for both prescribed fire and wildfire events nationally resulting from the feedback obtained by objective metrics as well as user comments; 2) recommended path for implementation of verification tools within the NWS Performance Branch; 3) increased numbers of potential burn days, due to dependable verification statistics, to better enable the fire managers to meet their target goals and objectives. We propose to evaluate critical elements of spot forecasts: surface weather (e.g., temperature, relative humidity, and wind) and boundary layer parameters (e.g., mixing height, Haines Index, clearing index, smoke dispersal). We will examine spot forecasts (~20,000 per year nationally) over the period from 2011 through the completion of the project compared to other baseline forecasts such as persistence and climatology. While assessing the quality of all spot forecasts issued is important, evaluating forecasts issued at critical times in critical locations is particularly relevant for the safety of fire personnel and management of natural resources. Our work is intended to allow the flexibility to assess and evaluate fire weather forecasts as they pertain to local situations recognizing that the spot forecast elements requested by users from NWS Forecast Offices varies substantively around the nation. Spot forecasts for surface weather elements will be compared to NDFD forecasts and validated against in situ and nearby NWS and RAWS observations, and 2.5 km and 5 km RTMA gridded analyses. Boundary layer elements will be compared to output from the NCEP Rapid Refresh hourly analyses. A critical aspect of our study is to evaluate the uncertainty in the verifying data sets in order to define appropriate bounds for defining skillful vs. unskillful forecasts. We propose to validate the forecasts from three perspectives: (1) strategic verification- to provide flexible tools for evaluating spot forecasts locally, regionally, and nationally; (2) forecast improvement- to provide NWS forecasters with the capability to examine prior forecasts within the framework of their operational forecast preparation process; and (3) forecast usage- identifying from users the impact of the forecasts on fire and incident operations. Project deliverables include the results of the spot forecast verification analysis that will help to understand characteristics of spot forecasts as a function of location, season, and weather situation. In addition, we will foster implementation of a forecast methodology appropriate for spot forecasts in the Statistics-On-Demand operational system managed by the NWS Performance Branch.

Principal Investigator: John D. Horel

Agency/Organization: University of Utah

Branch or Dept: Department of Atmospheric Sciences

Other Project Collaborators




Branch or Dept

Agreements Contact

Jesse C. Pugh

University of Utah

Office of Sponsored Projects

Budget Contact

Sally P. Petersen

University of Utah

Grants & Contracts Accounting

Co-Principal Investigator

Timothy J. Brown

Desert Research Institute

Division of Atmospheric Sciences (DAS)


Thomas T. Lindley

NOAA-National Oceanic & Atmospheric Administration

National Weather Service-Lubbock


Glen W Sampson

NOAA-National Oceanic & Atmospheric Administration

National Weather Service-Tucson


John P. Snook

Forest Service

Region 5-Pacific Southwest Region

Project Locations





Great Basin

Great Plains

Lake States

Oak Woodlands

Northern Rockies




Southern Rockies









Project Deliverables

Final Report view or print

("Results presented in JFSP Final Reports may not have been peer-reviewed and should be interpreted as tentative until published in a peer-reviewed source.")

There are no deliverables available for this project.

Supporting Documents

There are no supporting documents available for this project.

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