Local Meteorologists monitor satellite methodically when fire danger is high, NWS Wichita uses notification program
Monday we brought you how Kansans can help fight fires from the sky, and now we want to introduce you to how local meteorologists help fight them with their screens.
On days where fire danger is incredibly high, similar to Tuesday, weather experts have a few handy tools to monitor any hot spots that could turn an otherwise normal day, into a busy one like what we are seeing across KAKEland.
The wind tells the story, that extreme caution is needed for Tuesday. All it takes for something devastating to occur is a combination of strong winds, low humidity and dry conditions.
"As temperatures climb... relative humidity goes down.... that allows fires to spread very, very rapidly," KAKE Meteorologist Frank Waugh said Tuesday morning.
The eyes of local meteorologists' are always set on satellites and right now is no different.
Waugh says when we have high thin cloud cover, it does makes fire detection like this incredibly difficult... if not, impossible. While it is a valuable tool, it's not perfect.
"This is one of the satellite bands that we use for fire detection. Unfortunately, you can see a lot of cloud cover over the states. So we can't see all the way down to the surface," KAKE's Waugh said while pointing to a monitor in KAKE's weather center.
Waugh says satellite imagery can be used in a number of ways.
"We use satellite imagery every day and most times we are talking about cloud cover, but we can use it in a couple of ways to detect fires. One, we can use satellite imagery to detect smoke plums. Simply, we are just looking down at the Earth looking for plums of smoke that mimic clouds, but another way we can detect fires, is using the infrared satellite to look for heat signatures and we used this extensively back in December," he added. "This sort of fire detection is really valuable in KAKEland because fires sometimes happen in places that are very remote, there is not people there to call them in, so being able to use satellites to be able to detect those hotspots is sometimes our first indication that we have something going on."
The National Weather Service' Forecast Office in Wichita uses the same satellite, but they crank it up a notch.
"We are all looking at the same satellite imagery. What is nice is we can request what we call a 'meso-sector'. It's a higher resolution over a smaller area and a more frequent update time. We can get new satellite data in as quickly as one minute," Chance Hayes, a Warning Coordination Meteorologist with the National Weather Service's office in Wichita said.
Through a program called 'Hot Spot Notification' the NWS can let emergency management and fire crews know where trouble might be.
"Many times in rural Kansas, not many people are traversing through the area or it is not very populated, so there is a high likelihood that the smoke from the wildfires may not be seen in a very quick time frame. Those notifications that we send out from the satellite imagery may be the first notification into 911 and or the fire departments that are getting those notifications... they will dispatch a truck immediately to that location," Hayes added.
It's a notification that started being tested back in 2018 and now in 2022, it could help save lives.
"Just going back to December 15th, we saw the importance of getting on to the wildfires as quickly as possible to try and extinguish them. We want that to happen every single fire weather day," Hayes added.