Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Fire Weather Zones

With a wildfire burning in the Huachuca Mountains currently (the Brown Fire, shown in photo from yesterday, credit unknown), I thought that I would respond to a comment from early in April regarding the NWS Fire Weather Zones. The comment was:

FYI... WFO Tucson recently re-drew their Fire Weather Zones (effective 4/1), so the "regular" Watch/Warning/Advisory maps should look better with Red Flag Warnings now.

The new NWS Fire Weather Zones are shown below and Zone 152 is shaded orange-red to indicate a current Red Flag Warning. I assume that before the zones were re-defined a single zone covered all of southeastern Arizona, extending to the west of the Tucson Metro area. This led to some of the graphics on the NWS web page showing very large alerts for fire weather products, even if only a small portion of the area was impacted.

So, with the new zones, the home page of the NWS at Tucson indicates the above, i.e., a Red Flag Warning for Zone 152. A click on the "Detailed Hazards" tab is still needed to view the much smaller, actual area (below) that is under the Red Flag Warning. As the comment stated, the new zones do indeed reduce the extent of the warning on the NWS home page, but continue to indicate entire zones under the warning. It is not clear why the graphics used by NWS smear the details of some products on the main page that most users see first, and sometimes last. Note that this morning's NWS "Weather Story" does highlight the details of today's Red Flag Warning, and this feature catches the user's eye much better than does the detailed hazards tab.

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