FX-Net Workstation 'Backbone' of Fire Weather Operations

The National Weather Service has implemented an All Hazards Onsite Meteorological Support System to support the NWS Incident Meteorologists (IMETs) at remote locations. The core component of the system is the NOAA Forecast Systems Laboratory's (FSL) FX-NET system. FX-NET provides AWIPS-like displays on a laptop remote from the data server. FX-NET has been deployed to a number of fires during the last two fire weather seasons and has been used at all the fires the IMETs have supported this season. FX-Net delivers high-resolution satellite, radar, observational, and weather prediction model data from a server in either the Western, Southern, Pacific, or Alaska Region. Any type of network link can be used to access the server data at speeds ranging from low-bandwidth 56 kbps to high-speed, two-way satellite based communications systems. Bandwidth limitations are addressed by using a Wavelet data compression technique along with multithreaded client-side processing and communication.

FX-Net has proved to be a critical component for the fire management team struggling to save lives and control the fires in California over the past week. In a conversation with Rich Douglas, the Chief of the Meteorological Services Division at the NWS Western Region Headquarters in Salt Lake City, Utah on Wednesday, October 29, he was quoted as saying, "The FX-Net system is heavily used. For the IMETs, it's the most critical system they have." He went on to say that "the real-time wind and radar data display capability the FX-Net system gives the forecasters is incredibly critical to the fire management team's efforts to get fire fighters in the right position on the fire line and in moving people out of harm's way." He went on to say that "FX-Net has had a huge impact on improving firefighter safety."

A unique capability of the FX-Net system allows the deployed forecasters to display high-resolution radar data from any local or remote radar from any location across the country. When the fire shut down a local radar site being used at the forecasters' home radar, another regional radar was brought up in a few seconds to provide continuous coverage. Another unique data set has aided the forecasters - local MesoWest data provided by the Citizen Weather Network data base which is served from FSL in Boulder.

There are six IMETs currently deployed to the California fires according to Mr. Douglas. Most of the systems are communicating with the FX-Net server via a two-way satellite communications link.

Mr. Douglas also stated that, "FSL has provided phenomenal support to the regions and the IMETs during the implementation and continuing support of the FX-Net system."

From the field at the California Fires

According to Rob Balfour, a National Weather Service (NWS) Incident Meteorologist (IMET), "the FX-Net system is the 'backbone' of fire weather forecasting in the field." Mr. Balfour is in the field in California supporting the fire management team at the Padua, Old, and Grand Prix fires. He stated that the FX-Net system is critical for use as the "main thing for model guidance and 'right-now' weather information." He noted that the NOAA/FSL-developed Rapid Update Cycle model (RUC) is essential for hourly soundings to improve his short-range wind and atmospheric moisture forecasts. Both parameters are constantly changing and critical for providing structure protection and guidance to the fighters on the fire line.

FX-Net is the only system in the fire management office where five minute Doppler radar velocity data, critical to keeping track of the rapidly changing wind conditions, can be displayed. Balfour stated that this system is critical to rapidly update him on weather conditions and that the information retrieved from the Internet is "too slow, all the data can't be overlaid, animated, or found all in one place."

For contact information and briefings on FX-Net and Wavelet Compression visit the FX-Net Web site.

Contact information
Name: Sher Schranz
Tel: 303-497-7254
sher.schranz@noaa.gov