The Role of Incident Meteorologists & Fire
17 Jun 2021 6:00 AM
With the increase in fire activity around the western United States, the National Weather Service will begin to deploy their Incident Meteorologists, or iMets for short. Although this may sound like a new piece of technology, iMets are the essential, front line scientists working to protect life and property during extreme weather events.
According to Incident Meteorologist Mike Ottenweller, they are responsible for “provid[ing] the on-site meteorology, the on-site weather support in efforts to help the team, to help the public whoever it is who is on the ground working that incident”
Not only do iMets respond to wildfires, they often times will respond to hurricanes too. The iMet's main responsibility is to provide hyper-localized forecasts to emergency managers and first responders. Incident Meteorologists, like their National Weather Service counterparts, are using many tools according to Mike: "high resolution models, satellite, radar, whatever it is that we have, we take advantage of it, really dial it in.”
Incident Meteorologists will also launch weather balloons from near a fire, to get hyper-local atmospheric data in the environment surrounding the fire. This helps the meteorologist better understand what the fire is doing at the current moment and what it may do in the future hours and days.
Often times, iMets are deployed away from their home office, to support other regions of the country during wildfire season. In 2020, iMets conducted 188 missions in the United States.
The onsite information iMets provide is crucial for firefighting efforts and safety. With another busy fire season expected in 2021, we thank the National Weather Service Meteorologists for the hard work they are doing and will do this year!
Cover photo: Telegraph Fire, Arizona. June 4, 2021.