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Unit 8: Keeping Current with The Weather

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Forecasting   ::   AFFIRMS   ::   Warnings   ::   Management   ::   Services   ::  Mobile Units  ::   Forecasts   ::   Monitoring   ::   Exercises

Mobile Weather Units

The spot forecast should be better than a general fire weather forecast but probably not as accurate as the next forecast that we will discuss. This is the mobile weather unit forecast. The mobile weather unit is a special service available in the Western United States.

Mobile weather units or ATMUs are a valuable resource for fire managers because they aid the ability of weather forecasters to make site specific forecasts for large fires.

Example map
ATMU cache locations

The map above gives the locations of permanently based mobile units. These units can be dispatched with a qualified fire weather meteorologist and be on the road within 2 hours of receiving the request. A mobile unit contains weather observation equipment, radio communications equipment, including a facsimile machine and power supply, and other conveniences. The meteorologist is able to communicate directly with a regular National Weather Service forecast office to exchange forecasting data between office and field. In effect, the mobile unit becomes a miniature forecasting office at the fire.

Examples of ATMUs


In addition to the mobile units, several air portable units are now available. These tent-trailers provide essentially the same forecasting facilities as the mobiles. They can be hauled on large cargo aircraft, slung from helicopters, and moved to almost any location.

Mobile unit forecasts can be prepared to meet any schedule desired on the fire. Usually there are two primary forecasts prepared each day to coincide with shift planning. Updates of these forecasts are always available as requested.

Advantages of having a mobile weather unit on a fire are :

  1. Can get better weather observations at fire area.
  2. Can get forecasts better adapted to local terrain.
  3. Meteorologist works directly with plans section.
  4. Meteorologist can attend and participate in briefings.
  5. Meteorologist can help train and position weather observers.
  6. Communications problems are reduced.

Before leaving this discussion of the mobile weather unit, please be advised that it can be requested for purposes other than wildfires. Resource managers often have mobile units on site for prescribed burns, aerial spraying projects, or natural disasters such as floods.

A primary use of weather forecasts and data collected on a fire is for fire behavior predictions. The plans section on a fire, or specifically the Fire Behavior Officer, is responsible for performing calculations to predict fire behavior.

Copyright 2008, by the Contributing Authors. Cite/attribute Resource . admin. (2005, November 10). Unit 8: Keeping Current with The Weather. Retrieved January 07, 2011, from Free Online Course Materials — USU OpenCourseWare Web site: This work is licensed under a Creative Commons License Creative Commons License