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Knowing Nevada: The watchful protectors of northern Nevada at the National Weather Service

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It takes a trained eye to track weather conditions and be the backbone of emergency responses.

When it comes to environmental threats you are used to hearing warnings from local law enforcement or fire officials. But do you ever wonder where their foresight comes from?

Well, it's right here at Reno's National Weather Service (NWS) where they are looking days, weeks, months, and even years ahead to help keep you safe.

Not to be too dramatic here, but much like Batman, NWS serves as the watchful protector of our region. Always scanning for threats caused by weather and northern Nevada has a variety of conditions to track.

Chris Smallcomb, an NWS Reno Meteorologist, said:

These winds aren't as concerning given that situation. Given that the vegetation is still relatively green, but again fast forward a month -- different story.

NWS even has the whole hideout out on a hill thing down as they look over the City of Reno from just below Truckee Meadows Community College.

"I always say our forecasters here can't use the excuse of 'we didn't see it coming' because literally, we can see just about everything coming into the Truckee Meadows area, " said Smallcomb.

I mean really they are just missing the cape and grappling hook cause instead it's business casual for the team at NWS and lots of instruments.

A hydrologist with NWS, Tim Bardsley, showed off some of the tech that dictates just a small portion of the data they collect to keep northern Nevadans informed. Bardsley pointed to what looked like a piece cut off from a space shuttle and explained:

"This is a wind sensor for wind speed and direction and this up top in the white can is a tipping rain gauge to measure the rate and volume of precipitation."

Apparently, data, like the portion collected by this device Bardsley showed the News 4-Fox 11 Team, is extremely important to forecasts -- I can't even imagine why.

"Any data we can get we assimilate. We are like the Borg on Star Trek, we just assimilate it all. So satellite data, radar data, weather observations, webcams, and even backyard weather stations, " cited Smallcomb.

All of that data then becomes a reportable and dependable warning system for safety officials.

According to Smallcomb,

We help get them ready to prepare for those days and they can adjust their staffing levels proactively ahead of those events. That is kind of a common theme is a lot of our information is use to help other agencies staff up and prepare for those big weather days.

This Gotham City is 36,000 square miles large -- all the way from the Oregon border down to Bishop, California.

School districts and airports are all looking to NWS for insight as the weather service faces its the biggest foe yet: the changing climate.

Smallcomb said the peaks and valleys are shifting from what they have historically been. What used to be a really warm year is now actually a relatively cool year, said Smallcomb.

"Fire season, the kinds of winter storms we are getting. For that three months, we were just shut off. That never happens. We would go a few weeks without a storm, but three months? Something ain't right," added Smallcomb.

Chris pointed to last December and October as months that excited meteorologists with all that moisture, but with a dry spell in following, historically reliable, months like January, February, and March it's created a potentially unpredictable fire season -- something we've been seeing a lot of.

"I have not seen fires like we have seen in the past several years. These fires that are covering hundreds of thousands of acres, " said Bardsley

See the weather service isn't all about relaying how much rain or snow comes in though. They also have people like to Tim, a hydrologist, looking at the impacts of drought over time -- but more front and center with these massive fires -- the miles and miles of hydrophobic and highly erodable soils left behind. An often forgotten part of post-fire danger.

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