Natural Resource Agency Responsibilities
The natural resource agencies will oversee the fire weather observation program, including the site selection and maintenance of the observing equipment, fire weather training of their personnel, and the proficiency of their personnel in the use of the NWS Spot software.
Natural resource agencies will monitor the quality and timeliness of NWS fire weather products, and provide feedback to the NWS in order to improve services to the agencies.
The natural resource agencies may, from time to time, advise the NWS of new technologies being implemented to monitor meteorological or fuel parameters, or to improve communication, coordination, training or reference. Natural resource agency personnel may, with prior arrangement, visit an NWS office to acquire a knowledge of NWS technologies used in the monitoring of weather, or the preparation of products.
Internet will be the primary method of obtaining the Fire Weather Forecast, Red Flag Warning, Fire Weather Watch, and for both requesting and receiving a Spot Forecast. As a backup method, a request can be made to the NWS for a product to be faxed to the customer agency. NFDRS observations will be entered into WIMS, and forecasts and calculations based on these observations will be received by WIMS, or by internet via a WIMS website.
Fire weather observation stations provide the specialized weather observations for fire weather forecasts, wildfire control and suppression, and various other land management operations. These stations were selected very carefully in each state and federal district. Sites were chosen to represent homogeneous weather conditions across a district. Stations may either be manned sites operated by land management agencies, or unmanned Remote Automatic Weather Stations (RAWS) maintained by any of the federal or state land management agencies in the area.
The GACC in Atlanta, when requested to do so by a natural resource agency, shall assign a station ID number for fire weather observation platforms. The land management agency will provide the station name, location (county, latitude, and longitude), and elevation to the GACC meteorologist.
The GACC meteorologist will assign the number and assist the station owner in establishing a station catalog in WIMS. The numbering convention uses a six digit number starting with 40 (for TN), followed by a 2-digit county code (eastern TN county codes and western TN county codes), followed by a 2-digit station number. The GACC meteorologist is responsible for maintaining a database of RAWS stations in his area. This information concerning new RAWS stations should also be provided to the appropriate NWS forecast office.
RAWS stations are also assigned a character alphanumeric identifier based on satellite transmission time. The NESDIS ID, transmit channel, and time are assigned by the US Forest Service National RAWS program.
Observations from a satellite telemetered RAWS will automatically flow into WIMS via the NESDIS ID. Observations are only entered manually if the RAWS is a manual station. The RAWS owner currently must enter WIMS and manually change a recorded observation (an R ob) to an observed observation (an O ob), manually enter the state of the weather, and save the observation to WIMS. This action is generally applied only to the daily 1300 hour observation.
As a part of the ongoing reprogramming efforts in WIMS, the change from R to O will be completely automated and a State of the Weather (SOW) will be computed (in part) from solar radiation data. Manual daily entry in WIMS will no longer be necessary for satellite telemetered stations. If a station is not satellite telemetered, the entire 1300 hour observation must be manually entered into WIMS. Non-NFDRS stations are naturally exempt from these procedures.
Even with automated conversion to O type observations, the responsibility still rests with the RAWS owner to ensure that observations are being transmitted, recorded, and archived properly in WIMS. The additional automation will greatly simplify the daily process, however there will still be the need for observations to be checked for integrity and consistency. Managing the NFDRS model parameters will still be a manual process in WIMS. Automation of O type observations will help streamline the WIMS collective that is distributed to the NWS via AWIPS. NFDRS forecasts are based on RAWS observations that appear on the daily collective.
Sensor failure will often result in erroneous or (at best) suspicious values. If the NWS becomes aware of such a situation, it is prudent to contact the station owner. Similarly, if a station owner becomes aware of a sensor failure, he should relay that information to the appropriate NWS office. It is that station owner's responsibility to make sure that their station is and remains in good working order and that repairs are made in a timely manner. Owners of NFDRS stations can still (and should) correct any errors in their respective observations.
The user agencies are also responsible for maintaining observation site equipment. NWS personnel may accompany the user on maintenance trips or for annual inspection visits, which could also serve as liaison with the users.
The responsibility of training natural resource agency employees will be that of the agencies themselves. However, the NWS will be available to assist when requested to do so. Any expenses incurred by the NWS will normally be charged to the user agency, unless other arrangements have been made.