As you may know, since the debut of OK-FIRE in 2006 we have utilized the WeatherScope plug-in for creating many of our map products. WeatherScope was great for this purpose, as it allowed the creation of maps on your computer's hard drive and included advanced features such as animation, zooming, and overlays. However, smartphones and tablets do not support plug-in technology and thus many of our maps appear as blank pages on those devices. To compound matters, browsers (e.g., Firefox, Internet Explorer) are expected to drop support for this technology in the near future, and certain browsers such as Chrome have already dropped support for plug-ins. Thus even on desktops and notebook computers, many users cannot see the plug-in maps on OK-FIRE anymore.
Since the start of this year, we have been working with Mesonet on a solution to this. As of April 20 we have released the first round of plug-in replacement maps for OK-FIRE. Most of the CURRENT maps using WeatherScope have now been replaced by maps that can be seen across all devices. You can see this clearly in the WEATHER, FIRE, and SMOKE sections, especially in their respective CURRENT subsections (first items on the left menu) under each subject area. The RADAR section has also been modified to allow the viewing of the local radar maps, which
can be zoomed and animated; these maps were formerly plug-in generated as well.
There is more work to be done such as utilizing new technology to replace the current plug-in based recent and forecast animations of our more important maps, as well as retaining the capacity to zoom on some of our maps. These changes will come at a future date and until then, we are retaining use of the WeatherScope technology for these animations (and zooming) in the RECENT and FORECAST subsections of WEATHER, FIRE, and SMOKE to allow those users who still can use WeatherScope with their browsers to continue to view these important map animations (e.g., Firefox and Internet Explorer still support WeatherScope).
We hope our wildland fire users, many of whom have been without benefit of our maps across mobile devices, notebooks, and desktops for some time, will now be able to use these maps once again and find the OK-FIRE website more user-friendly. As we said earlier, there is more to be done, but this is a good first step.
We'd welcome any feedback on this first round of changes.
Dr. J. D. Carlson
OK-FIRE Program Manager
Oklahoma State University