Government Articles – 5 Reasons Incident Response Needs a Weather Station: #4



#4: Plume Modeling Fire departments are frequently tasked with responding when hazardous chemicals are accidentally released into the environment, especially in an inhabited area. Many crucial decisions such as approach, staging, and potential evacuation, rely on accurate, up-to-the minute local weather data. One key tool is toxic PLUME MODELING which combines information about the chemical release with meteorological data overlaid on a map.

Weather conditions greatly impact toxic cloud movement. Up to date meteorological data is imperative for monitoring cloud movement to ensure responders and local inhabitants stay out of harm’s way.

Depending upon meteorology, the toxic cloud could be several miles long, but only a few blocks wide. Changing wind patterns could cause the plume to shift or meander in another direction,” ~ John S. Nordin, Ph.D.* Plume modeling software can often accept met data from Internet sources and/or directly from a weather station. While weather data is generally available on the Internet, many Internet applications upload data hourly or at 15-minute intervals, and the nearest data point may be miles away. On-site weather stations upload data in a matter of seconds.

A weather station is standard gear for most hazmat response teams. When the State of Oregon Fire Marshal established a state-wide Regional HazMat Emergency Response program, the teams were outfitted with weather stations from Columbia Weather Systems. In use for over 10 years, the systems recently underwent testing, upgrades and battery replacement. New hazmat vehicles include vehicle-mount weather stations with GPS.

On-site weather data can greatly increase the accuracy of plume modeling. Weather stations from Columbia Weather systems can automatically integrate with the plume modeling component of software such as MarPlot/CAMEO, Safer Systems, and PEAC by Aristatek. Additionally, vector wind measurements from WeatherMaster™ Software can be used to project an initial plume corridor before the modeling software can gather sufficient data. (See )


*Nordin, John. Evacuate or Shelter in Place. Retrieved from

Additional Resources:

Chitumalla, Pavan Kumar; Harris, Douglas; Thuraisingham, Bhavani; and Khan, Latifur. (2010, April). Emergency Response Applications: Dynamic Plume Modeling and Real-Time Routing. IEEE Internet Computing. Retrieved from

Gerrish, John. (2006, Spring). HazMat Weather Part I: Mitigating the Unthinkable Retrieved from

Gerrish, John. (2006, Autumn). HazMat Weather Part II: Weather Monitoring as a Force Multiplier. Retrieved from

Petrillo, Alan (2016, September) New Hazmat Rigs Part of 10-Truck Order in Oregon. Fire Apparatus and Emergency Equipment. Retrieved from

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