8
Concluding Thoughts

In previous chapters, we have offered several specific recommendations targeted to the private, public, and academic stakeholders of a national multi-purpose mesoscale observing system. These recommendations range in scope from specific applications of data to the particular types of observations and infrastructure that should comprise a national network of networks. In this chapter we address some human dimensions associated with the selection and provision of mesoscale information and we enumerate the highest observing system priorities associated with the critical gaps identified elsewhere in the report.

PRESERVING AND ENHANCING THE DIVERSITY OF INVESTMENT

A major implementation challenge is to retain the energy, enthusiasm, and diverse investments that have led to our current condition, while also introducing an appropriate degree of centralization for the purposes of coordination and integration to maximize the national benefit. This is easier said than done. However, the United States has been faced with analogous challenges in the past, and it has succeeded. The U.S. Congress has chartered private non profit corporations (e.g., National Public Radio) in situations where the scope of activity is truly national, yet major components of the effort are cooperatively resourced federally and locally through both governmental and private resources.

Providers and users of mesoscale data include individuals; water, energy utility, and air quality and transportation districts; agriculture-related orga-



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8 Concluding Thoughts In previous chapters, we have offered several specific recommendations targeted to the private, public, and academic stakeholders of a national multi-purpose mesoscale observing system. These recommendations range in scope from specific applications of data to the particular types of obser- vations and infrastructure that should comprise a national network of networks. In this chapter we address some human dimensions associated with the selection and provision of mesoscale information and we enumer- ate the highest observing system priorities associated with the critical gaps identified elsewhere in the report. PRESERVING AND ENHANCING THE DIVERSITY OF INVESTMENT A major implementation challenge is to retain the energy, enthusiasm, and diverse investments that have led to our current condition, while also introducing an appropriate degree of centralization for the purposes of coordination and integration to maximize the national benefit. This is easier said than done. However, the United States has been faced with analogous challenges in the past, and it has succeeded. The U.S. Congress has char- tered private non profit corporations (e.g., National Public Radio) in situ- ations where the scope of activity is truly national, yet major components of the effort are cooperatively resourced federally and locally through both governmental and private resources. Providers and users of mesoscale data include individuals; water, energy utility, and air quality and transportation districts; agriculture-related orga- 

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 CONCLUDING THOUGHTS nizations; municipalities, state governments, and federal agencies; and small businesses and Fortune 500 corporations. While each of these entities is important to the enterprise, all have a limited mission and therefore a mission-limited role where provision of infrastructure and services is concerned. A hybrid public-private organization would encourage the leadership and prominence of federal agencies such as National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, while also protecting, facilitating, and enabling the role of other interests, which are essential to the success of the collaborative enterprise. While the mesoscale observational enterprise extends far and wide throughout the nation’s commerce, industry, academia, and all levels of government, the federal role is pivotal. This is especially important in the case of costly three-dimensional observations, which enable short-range numerical weather prediction, the nowcasting of high impact weather, and chemical weather predictions. THE EVOLVING HUMAN DIMENSION The societal uses of mesoscale information are evolving rapidly, and these are increasingly interactive with the technical enterprise of weather prediction and climate monitoring. The need for information is sometimes driven by the increased importance of specific physical, dynamical, and chemical processes to new applications in an expanding user base. How- ever, other needs are driven by behavioral change, evolving social values, and changing demographics. This aspect of mesoscale network design and evolving requirements must be viewed as a two-way process that includes integrated feedback mechanisms. Recommendation: The stakeholders should commission an independent team of social and physical scientists to conduct an end-user assessment for selected sectors. The assessment should quantify further the current use and value of mesoscale data in decision making and also project future trends and the value associated with proposed new observations. Upon the implementation and utilization of improved observations, periodic assessments should be conducted to quantify change in meso- scale data use and the added societal impact and value. In addition to the involvement of known data providers and users, a less formal survey should capture user comments from blogs and webpage feedback. Such a survey would actively seek out comments from people who are registered or who regularly access the data. The broad objectives of a survey would be to

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0 OBSERVING WEATHER AND CLIMATE FROM THE GROUND UP • identify priority areas where training and outreach can be devel- oped to broaden the number and types of users and uses of network data; • develop ways to acknowledge and broaden the uses of environ- mental monitoring information, beyond weather, to include examination of societal vulnerability and resilience to a broader range of hazards; • examine whether and how one state, group, or region’s applica- tions and partnership agreements can be used elsewhere; • discover metrics that measure how well current initiatives meet the data needs of the citizenry, e.g., teachers, students, hospital administrators, golfers, homeowners, and individuals of all ages; and • identify novel ways to build capacity for using environmental mon- itoring data in society. HIGHEST PRIORITIES STEMMING FROM COMMON THREADS While this report recognizes longer-term, larger-scale, full tropospheric/ stratospheric applications, it is the first report to focus specifically on observational needs for high-impact mesoscale meteorological and chem- ical weather events. The Committee has surveyed needs for mesoscale observations in six application areas: weather and climate, energy, public health and safety, transportation, water resources and food production, and research. Commensurate with the Committee’s charge, our surveys have emphasized regional and urban short-term applications, paying special attention to the atmospheric boundary layer within the continental U.S. and adjacent coastal areas. A baseline need is to do those things necessary to enable broader and more effective use of existing observations. While an important first step, these remedial actions alone are insufficient to meet all the requirements for any of the applications surveyed. The major findings resulting from Chapters 2, 3, and 4 are distilled in Table 8.1. An “X” in the box means that the observational capability was considered for the application. Red means that the observational capability is primitive or that the techniques and/or the infrastructure to make the observations do not exist. Where the box is empty, the type of observation for a specific application area was not discussed or is not relevant. The most sorely needed observations stand out in this table as two or more red entries in a single row: • Height of the planetary boundary layer • Soil-moisture and soil-temperature profiles • High-resolution vertical profiles of humidity • Measurements of air quality and atmospheric composition above the surface layer

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 CONCLUDING THOUGHTS TABLE 8.1 Application sector gaps for various parameters Weather Public Food and Health and Transpor- and Sector/ Variable Climate Energy Safety tation Water Surface wind speed and X X X X X direction Surface temperature X X X X X Surface relative humidity X X X X X Surface pressure X X X Visibility X X X Precipitation rate X X X X Snow cover and depth X X X Precipitation amount X X X X X Precipitation type X X X X sea-surface temperature X Lightning X X X planetary boundary layer X X X X height Soil-moisture and soil- X X X X X temperature profiles Direct and diffuse X X X X radiation Vertical wind profiles X X X X Vertical temperature X X X X profiles Vertical humidity profiles X X X X Hydrometeor mixing ratios X Reservoir temperature/ X X water temperature Stream flow X X X Ag climate variables X X Icing near surface X X Air quality—surface X X X Air quality—aloft X X Cloud cover/ sky view X X X Surface turbulence X X X parameters continued

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 OBSERVING WEATHER AND CLIMATE FROM THE GROUND UP TABLE 8.1 Continued Weather Public Food and Health and Transpor- and Sector/ Variable Climate Energy Safety tation Water Roadway temperature X Subsurface temperatures X X Low-level shear X X X Marine swell heights/water X depth/currents/air gaps Evapotranspiration X Water quality X NOTE: An “X” indicates that the measurement has been discussed under the topic listed in the column heading. An “X” with no red indicates that some network measurements are being taken, though spatial and temporal gaps may exist. An “X” with red indicates that measurements are so inadequate that no network can be said to exist, and the problem must be addressed. In the next category are variables that have one red entry and at least one additional “X”: • Direct and diffuse radiation • Vertical profiles of wind • Sub surface temperature profiles (e.g., under pavement) • Icing near the surface • Vertical profiles of temperature • Surface turbulence parameters If one wants to know where multiple, cross-cutting needs can be met through an investment in new or improved observing systems, Table 8.1 provides fairly specific guidelines. Observations drive all environmental monitoring and prediction sys- tems. Raw, calibrated, and checked observations can meet a few very short-term applications, that is, those requiring a response or decision within minutes to an hour. For all other applications, however, a system for assimilating disparate observations into a coherent analysis of present conditions is essential, as is the insertion of this analysis into a prediction model. Probably beyond 12 hours—certainly beyond 24 hours—the needs of all user communities converge: they must have prediction models. But without the observations to specify the initial conditions, the models are impotent.

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 CONCLUDING THOUGHTS National Needs Meteorological and related environmental observations are needed at spatial and temporal resolutions much finer than widely available today. The priority uses and applications include tracking atmospheric dispersion of chemical, biological, and nuclear contaminants from industrial accidents and terrorist activities as well as smoke dispersion monitoring and predic- tions related to wildfires, prescribed burns, and seasonal agricultural fires; providing information for air quality forecasting, high-resolution nowcast- ing, and short-range forecasting of high-impact weather; providing high- resolution weather information for aviation, surface transportation, and coastal waterways; and providing support to regional climate monitoring. The Vertical Dimension The vertical component of U.S. mesoscale observations is inadequate. Assets required to profile the lower troposphere above the near-surface layer (first 10) are too limited in what they measure, too sparsely or unevenly dis- tributed, sometimes too coarse in vertical resolution, sometimes limited to regional areal coverage, and clearly do not qualify as a mesoscale network of national dimensions. Likewise, vertical profiles below the Earth’s surface are inadequately measured in both space and time. The solutions to these particular deficiencies require leadership and infrastructure investments from each of the pivotal federal agencies. Metadata and Exposure A NoN cannot deliver net benefit to users unless comprehensive meta- data are supplied by all operators. Though provision of good metadata is an exacting task; metadata are key to the effective accommodation of diverse data sources and the widest possible utility of such information. The Committee repeatedly discussed conformance to World Meteorological Organization exposure standards, which is desirable in many instances but unnecessarily restrictive and sub-optimal in others. For example, restriction of sensors to WMO exposure settings and heights clearly would be counter- productive in the road and rail applications, yet non-standard exposures, provided these are known, will be potentially useful in multiple appli- cations. Comprehensive metadata, including all aspects of exposure and observing system performance, enable network configurations to best meet customized needs as specified by the users themselves. Metadata enables one to ask questions across multiple networks and seek answers from the whole NoN. Given that proper exposure is often application dependent, the Com-

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 OBSERVING WEATHER AND CLIMATE FROM THE GROUND UP mittee believes that low power wireless communication is an important and underused pathway for the mitigation of competing exposure requirements. A single surface station may economically achieve optimal exposures in a local area for winds, precipitation, radiation, and properties of soil, road and water surfaces, etc., as long as data rates and distances are compatible with low power wireless communications. Geography and Demography The Committee repeatedly returned to concerns about urban, coastal, and mountainous regions as these affect the mix of surface-based mesoscale observing systems. Mountains, coastlines, and cities have greater impor- tance than their surface areas would imply. Ironically, these are consistently undersampled relative to their needs. All three create their own weather, which is often poorly resolved in synoptic Numerical Weather Prediction models. Considering the danger of traveling in the winter or fighting forest fires in the summer, the need for observations in the mountains goes beyond that for weather forecasting alone. Coastlines and cities, both of which have high concentrations of people, also take on special importance, particularly when one considers the need for observations to response to a release of toxic substances, treating the roads in respond to an ice storm or blizzard, or evacuate people in advance of hurricane landfall. The effect of these considerations on priorities is somewhat uncertain. Cities have special needs at the mesoscale owing to population density and high exposure to a very wide range of human activity over very short distances. However, coastlines and mountains harbor considerable meteorological and environmental complexity often not experienced in other regions. While sections of coastline are often densely populated, mountains are not, suggesting fewer observations in mountainous regions, which is consistent with past practice. However mountains are where surface observations are by far the least representative of the surrounding area, harboring large gradients of atmospheric properties; they are often suspected of being the major source of error in numerical prediction for regions downstream, such as cities and coastlines. There is no easy way out of this conundrum except to rely on testbeds, observing system experi- ments, and observing system simulation experiment for guidance in meso- scale observation design; and to gain additional skill as computational capacity increases along with our ability to better resolve and understand atmospheric structure.

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 CONCLUDING THOUGHTS THE CHALLENGE FOR THE FUTURE Today we are faced with a complex collection of mesoscale networks that are clearly driven by market forces. The condition is both energetic and chaotic and possesses local strengths, national gaps, and operational weaknesses. Local strengths are heralded by the proliferation of surface meteorological stations, which are often tailored to satisfy the monitoring needs of a particular application. The national gaps result from weaknesses in the federal government’s observational infrastructure as they pertain to mesoscale numerical weather prediction and chemical weather predic- tion. Observational deficiencies in the mountains, at the coasts, and near urbanized areas require specialized attention. With respect to mesoscale numerical and chemical weather prediction and chemical weather forecasts, three-dimensional observations are paramount and involve heavy infra- structure to which federal agencies must be major contributors. Nearly every dimension of participation in mesoscale observation is important and worthy of cultivation. The challenge is to harness the strengths of our current condition while creating an organizational circum- stance that can stimulate and coordinate diverse assets to serve similarly diverse interests. The Committee believes that it has offered constructive and sometimes novel alternatives toward that end while avoiding prema- turely prescriptive or excessively centralized solutions. Much work remains, especially with regard to the elaboration of architecture, the design of net- works, and the forging of new relationships among all levels of government, industry, and the earnest contributions of our citizenry.