Investigating the Weather Conditions near Wildfires


A study is underway supported by the Joint Fire Science Program to improve the information available to wildfire professionals to make decisions when hazardous weather is expected in the vicinity of major wildfires in the United States. The project involves analyzing and visualizing "big data" obtained from numerical weather prediction models and observations in the vicinity of major wildfires during the 2018 summer season. The objective of this study is to develop improved computer-based tools that operational wildfire personnel can use to make informed decisions about conditions that could lead to explosive fire development. Fire professionals are using other online tools developed by our research group to monitor the fire potential near the Great Lakes (, Alaska (, and nationwide (

Student Role

You will participate in research with faculty, staff, and graduate and undergraduate students in the MesoWest group ( Research and development related to fire weather, the Great Salt Lake, and air quality along the Wasatch Front and in the Uintah Basin are among some of the projects underway. You will be assigned to monitor online information related to major wildfires in the western United States and Alaska. That information will be used to identify periods when fires underwent explosive growth and use weather graphics available to our group to document those cases. Background in the atmospheric sciences or is not required. Opportunities will also exist to assist with occasional field work related to a network of environmental monitoring stations operated by our group in remote locations of northern Utah.


  1. be involved in societally-relevant research that has the potential to protect lives and property threatened by future wildfires
  2. gain experience in methodologies in collaborative research to examine environmental information
  3. increase familiarity with ways to acquire, archive, and visualize environmental information through online instruction and hands-on field work with environmental sensors
  4. become familiar with the linux operating system on workstations housed by the Center for High Performance Computing as well as techniques to access data from cloud providers, such as Amazon.

John Horel

Atmospheric Sciences
College of Mines & Earth Sciences
Global Change and Sustainability Center

I will supervise the mentee in the context of research that also involves my supervision of two graduate students on the project. The summer is a busy time for our group, particularly with regard to this project. The MesoWest research group provides a congenial work environment with frequent project discussions to minimize the potential for the student to feel isolated from others or myself. The student will have the opportunity to do more than just computer-based work, as we have many supervised days of field work during the summer. After an initial assessment of the student's capabilities, the student will be directed towards specific tasks that have measurable outcomes and sufficient progress to meet the goals of the SPUR program.