National Weather Service Fire Weather Experts Assisting in Australia

The National Weather Service (NWS) and Australian Bureau of Meteorology forecasters continue their close ties in this time of tragedy. This bond is partially made possible as a result of our differing fire seasons, as the Southern Hemisphere is currently in the heart of summer, while snow showers remain in the forecast over Upper Michigan. Two weeks of record high temperatures, along with a persistent drought and strong winds were able to fuel the deadliest Australian fire outbreak in history. At Melborne, the 2nd largest city in southern Australia, no measurable precipitation fell from January 4th to February 7th, tying the second-longest dry spell for the city. Source: Australia Bureau of Meteorology

For information on current NWS forecasters assisting in Australia, visit the following link: NWS Fire Experts Assisting in Australia

Local NWS Marquette forecaster and Incident Meteorologist Kari Fleegel has assisted the Australians in the past. The following is a portion of the article featured in our Fall 2007 weather update…

Kari Fleegel travels to Australia to forecast fires

In early 2007, over a dozen National Weather Service meteorologists assisted on the international scene. Anticipating a weak to moderate El Nino, which tends to bring dry weather to the Southwest Pacific, and an already dry spring, the Australian Bureau of Meteorology requested help from the United States.
It is not unusual to have firefighters travel to different countries to assist with ongoing wildfires. In fact, Canadian and Australian forces can frequently be found on some of our U.S. fires. However, international meteorological assistance for fires is very rare.  Between January and April, National Weather Service meteorologists were stationed at 3 of the 7 Bureau of Meteorology regional forecast centers in Sydney, Melbourne, and Hobart.

Kari was stationed on the southern Australian island of Tasmania from mid March to early April.  Weather is very universal, but some training was still necessary in order to give adequate support to fire personnel.  As a result, the first two days of her dispatch were spent at the Bureau of Meteorology training center in Melbourne. From there Kari travelled to Hobart, Tasmania.  Even though many of the fires were winding down at the time of her deployment, there were still active burns going on. During this time, Kari produced the daily fire weather forecasts, spoke to fire personnel and gave them site specific forecasts for ongoing and planned burns. Three different National Weather Service meteorologists spent time at the Hobart office during the 2007 Australian fire season. The other two were from Kansas and Colorado. Kari said that it was a great experience, where she learned about different forecast methodologies, and fostered relationships with people from the other side of the world that who have one very important thing in common, the love of weather.

Mary-Beth Schreck (NWS, Wichita, Kansas) and Kari Fleegel discussing a forecast

Kari at Port Arthur, site of a historic convict settlement

Kari at Port Arthur, site of a historic convict settlement in Tasmania

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