Summary

During the 1980s and 1990s, the National Weather Service (NWS) undertook a major program called the Modernization and Associated Restructuring (MAR). The MAR was officially completed in 2000. No comprehensive assessment of the execution of the MAR plan, or comparison of the promised benefits of the MAR to its actual impact, had ever been conducted. Therefore, Congress asked the National Academy of Sciences to conduct an end-to-end assessment. That report, The National Weather Service Modernization and Associated Restructuring: A Retrospective Assessment, concluded that the MAR was a success: “weather services have great value to the Nation, and the MAR was well worth the investment” (NRC, 2012a).

TODAY’S KEY CHALLENGES

Now, twelve years after the official completion of the MAR, the challenges faced by the NWS are no less important than those of the pre-MAR era. The three key challenges are

•   Keeping Pace with accelerating scientific and technological advancement.

•   Meeting Expanding and Evolving User Needs in an increasingly information-centric society.

•   Partnering with an Increasingly Capable Enterprise 1 that has grown considerably since the time of the MAR.

THE EVOLVING CONTEXT

These challenges are made more difficult by the external context, two areas of which are of particular importance:

•   Budget resources are uncertain and will likely be constrained for the next decade.

•   Operational performance standards against which NWS is measured, including those set by international weather service counterparts and private-sector entities, are increasingly high.

Additional important contextual issues include: the rapid, transformative pace of technological change will continue; the number and type of observational data will expand greatly; there will be continued concentration of infrastructure investment and population growth in vulnerable areas; climate change implies the possibility of changing weather patterns; and the international dimensions will continue to evolve.

RESPONDING TO THE CHALLENGES

Meeting the key challenges within the contextual drivers will require NWS to evolve its role and how it operates, making it more agile and effective. This report

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1 The “enterprise” includes all entities in the public, private, nonprofit, research, and academic sectors that provide information, services, and infrastructure in the areas of weather, water, and climate. For the purposes of this report, “enterprise” is often used as shorthand to refer to those enterprise elements outside the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) that it can draw on in its mission. The non-NOAA portion of the enterprise is now of equal or greater economic size compared to the NOAA portion.



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Summary D uring the 1980s and 1990s, the National THE EVOLVING CONTEXT Weather Service (NWS) undertook a major program called the Modernization and Asso- These challenges are made more difficult by the ciated Restructuring (MAR). The MAR was officially external context, two areas of which are of particular completed in 2000. No comprehensive assessment of importance: the execution of the MAR plan, or comparison of the promised benefits of the MAR to its actual impact, Budget resources are uncertain and will likely be had ever been conducted. Therefore, Congress asked constrained for the next decade. the National Academy of Sciences to conduct an end- Operational performance standards against which to-end assessment. That report, The National Weather NWS is measured, including those set by international Service Modernization and Associated Restructuring: A weather service counterparts and private-sector entities, Retrospective Assessment, concluded that the MAR was are increasingly high. a success: "weather services have great value to the Nation, and the MAR was well worth the investment" Additional important contextual issues include: (NRC, 2012a). the rapid, transformative pace of technological change will continue; the number and type of observational data will expand greatly; there will be continued con- TODAY'S KEY CHALLENGES centration of infrastructure investment and population Now, twelve years after the official completion of growth in vulnerable areas; climate change implies the the MAR, the challenges faced by the NWS are no less possibility of changing weather patterns; and the inter- important than those of the pre-MAR era. The three national dimensions will continue to evolve. key challenges are RESPONDING TO THE CHALLENGES Keeping Pace with accelerating scientific and technological advancement. Meeting the key challenges within the contextual Meeting Expanding and Evolving User Needs in drivers will require NWS to evolve its role and how it an increasingly information-centric society. operates, making it more agile and effective. This report Partnering with an Increasingly Capable Enter- prise1 that has grown considerably since the time of the services, and infrastructure in the areas of weather, water, and MAR. climate. For the purposes of this report, "enterprise" is often used as shorthand to refer to those enterprise elements outside the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) that it can draw 1The "enterprise" includes all entities in the public, private, on in its mission. The non-NOAA portion of the enterprise is now nonprofit, research, and academic sectors that provide information, of equal or greater economic size compared to the NOAA portion. 1

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2 WEATHER SERVICES FOR THE NATION presents three main recommendations for responding Recommendation I.a: Technology Infusion to these challenges. The National Weather Service (NWS) should continue technology infusion programs that have been Prioritize Core Capabilities effective subsequent to the Modernization and Associ- ated Restructuring. Parallel support from the National The NWS needs to prioritize the core capabilities Environmental Satellite, Data, and Information Service that only the NWS can provide so as to deliver the prod- (NESDIS) is needed to continually upgrade satellite ucts and services upon which the public and the entire capabilities. Such infusion programs should include weather, water, and climate enterprise depend. These both hardware and software development. core capabilities include creating foundational datasets, performing essential functions such as issuing forecasts, Recommendation I.b: Numerical Weather Prediction watches, and warnings, and conducting operationally- The National Weather Service (NWS) global and related research. Because the quality of NWS core regional numerical weather prediction systems should be capabilities underlies the relationship of trust and reli- of the highest quality and accuracy, with improvements ance among the NWS, the public, and the rest of the driven by user needs and scientific advances. To achieve enterprise, and consistent with Lessons 1, 2, 3, and 5 this goal, the NWS should give priority to upgrading its from NRC (2012a), the Committee makes the follow- data assimilation system and increasing the resolution of ing overarching recommendation. its deterministic and ensemble modeling systems. The product development process can be improved by devel- Recommendation I: Prioritize Core Capabilities oping a systematic approach to research-to-operations through collaboration with users and partners in the The National Weather Service (NWS) should entire weather, water, and climate enterprise, both in the United States and around the world. 1. Evaluate all aspects of its work that contribute to its foundational datasets, with the explicit goal of Recommendation I.c: Observational Data Metrics ensuring that those foundational datasets are of the To increase the capability of its numerical weather highest quality and that improvements are driven prediction systems to keep up with technological by user needs and scientific advances. As part of this advances and prioritize investments in data assimilation initial and ongoing evaluation effort, clear quality and observations systems, the National Weather Service and performance metrics should be established. Such (NWS) should develop and advance software tools metrics would address the technical components of to monitor the impact of observations on numerical NWS operations, as well as the efficiency and effec- weather prediction and downstream forecast systems. tiveness of the flow of weather information to end users. Recommendation I.d: Probabilistic Forecasts 2. Ensure that a similarly high priority is The National Weather Service (NWS) should take given to (a) product generation and dissemination, the lead in a community effort to provide products that (b) the brokering and provision of data services, and effectively communicate forecast uncertainty informa- (c) development and enhancement of analysis tools tion. The format for communicating probabilistic fore- for maintaining a common operating picture (COP). casts requires careful design using cognitive research. 3. Engage the entire enterprise to develop and Calibrated probabilistic forecasts would be produced implement a national strategy for a systematic approach by statistical post-processing of forecast ensembles, to research-to-operations and operations-to-research. and improvement efforts should focus on increasing the resolution and accuracy of the ensemble forecasts. To aid the NWS in implementing Recommen- dation I, the Committee makes the following support- Recommendation I.e: Hydrologic Prediction Metrics ing recommendations: The National Weather Service (NWS) hydrologic prediction services should coordinate with other enti-

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SUMMARY 3 ties in the hydrologic prediction community to continue of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Adminis- and expand a set of common, objective model metrics tration (NOAA) such as the National Environmental from which operational and experimental models may Satellite, Data, and Information Service (NESDIS) be inter-compared and continually assessed. and the Office of Oceanic and Atmospheric Research (OAR). Recommendation I.f: Incremental Upgrades As an absolutely necessary condition for success, To aid the NWS in implementing Recommenda- although insufficient by itself, the National Weather tion II, the Committee makes the following supporting Service (NWS) should have an ongoing capability for recommendations: development and testing of its incremental technical upgrades. This will allow the NWS to advance its capa- Recommendation II.a: Post-Event Evaluations bilities to respond to new scientific and technological The National Weather Service (NWS) should possibilities and to enhance its service to the nation. broaden the scope of the system for evaluating its fore- casts and warnings to include false alarms that result Evaluate Function and Structure in substantial public and/or emergency management response as well as significant hydrometeorological, The current structure of the NWS primarily oceanographic, or geological events. It should consider reflects the functions of the weather, water, and cli- whether having an independent entity conduct all post- mate enterprise in the 1990s. Technology, including event evaluations of performance after false alarms and improvements in communications and computer fore- significant events would be more effective. These evalu- cast models, has changed much of the rationale for the ations should address the full scope of response issues, present organizational structure of the NWS. In view from forecasts and warnings to communication and of the directions outlined in the Weather-Ready Nation public response, and be conducted by an appropriate Roadmap for expanding the role of forecasters and mix of individuals from within and outside the NWS. other NWS staff (NWS, 2012), it would be prudent They should also include instances of relative success to evaluate the NWS's organizational and functional (minimal or no loss of life) to learn valuable lessons structure. Based on these considerations, Lesson 4 from from these episodes as well. NRC (2012a), and a Congressional request for a new study to examine potential efficiencies in NWS opera- Recommendation II.b: Forecast Offices tions, the Committee makes the following overarching Because it is impractical to expect each individual recommendation. at the Weather Forecast Office level to possess all of the requisite skills to capitalize on the quantity and quality Recommendation II: Evaluate Function and of new foundational data being produced, the National Structure Weather Service (NWS) management should consider expanding its vision of team structures and functions In light of evolving technology, and because the within individual offices and between local offices and work of the National Weather Service (NWS) has regional offices and national centers. major science and technology components, the NWS should evaluate its function and structure, seeking Recommendation II.c: Workforce Evolution areas for improvement. Any examination of potential To create a workforce that is fully able to utilize changes in the function and organizational structure improved core capabilities and optimally serve the of the NWS requires significant technical input and public, the National Weather Service (NWS) should expertise, and should include metrics to evaluate the develop performance metrics-based approaches to process of structural evolution. Such an examination assessing staff skill sets to identify areas where enhanced would include individual NWS field offices, regional capabilities are needed. The NWS should involve the and national headquarters and management, as well entire enterprise in working with the academic and as the National Centers and the weather-related parts research communities to design new curricula to

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4 WEATHER SERVICES FOR THE NATION address pre-employment and during-employment edu- of core NWS capabilities but is realized through the cation and training needs. The NWS should also work effectiveness of NWS-enterprise relationships. A with the American Meteorological Society to update well-formulated enterprise strategy will also return and expand the credential criteria to reflect the future direct benefit from the enterprise to the NWS, espe- educational needs of NWS personnel. The National cially in areas of shared research, technology devel- Weather Service Employee Organization should be opment, observational data sources, and improved engaged as early as possible in the development of both end-user access to NWS-generated information. performance-based metrics and improved curricula. To aid the NWS in implementing Recommenda- Recommendation II.d: Hydrologist Staff tion III, the Committee makes the following support- The National Weather Service (NWS) service- ing recommendations: hydrologist staff requires reeducation and continual retraining if NWS hydrologic prediction services are Recommendation III.a: Secondary Value-Chain to be able to adopt current state-of-the-science predic- The National Weather Service (NWS) should seek tion methodologies and instill the evolutionary culture to better understand the functioning of the secondary required for optimal hydrologic services. value-chain, including ways in which it complements the primary value-chain. When appropriate, it should Leverage the Entire Enterprise identify new or evolved NWS data and services that can enhance public value delivered through the sec- The weather, water, and climate enterprise has ondary value-chain, the benefits associated with such evolved considerably since the beginning of the MAR services, and any challenges or risks in implementing in the 1980s. At that time, NWS was viewed as the them. To the greatest extent possible, this should be primary source of all weather, hydrology, and climate accomplished through collaborative efforts with cor- information. Today, the private sector and other non- responding enterprise partners. NWS organizations generate and deliver a wide variety of information that complements what is available from Recommendation III.b: Major Systems Procurement NWS. The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Admin- The Committee views improved NWS-enterprise istration (NOAA) as a whole should strengthen its interaction as a way to enhance the NWS's capability systems engineering and procurement processes for to accomplish its mission of serving the public. The major systems, including ground-based sensor, gauge, Committee thinks this is especially important at a and radar networks, satellites and ground processing, time when it is seeking to enhance its service (NWS, and major communications and processing systems so 2012). Leveraging the entire enterprise provides one as to achieve more productive and cost-effective inter- means to further NWS's mission of serving the public. actions with the enterprise partners developing and Regarding the role of the NWS within the broader building such systems. enterprise, and consistent with Lesson 5 from NRC (2012a), the Committee makes the following overarch- THE OUTCOME: A NATIONAL WEATHER ing recommendation. SERVICE SECOND TO NONE Recommendation III: Leverage the Entire Enterprise Meeting today's challenges will require changes over as much as a decade. Fortunately, the MAR The National Weather Service (NWS) should established a solid foundation as a starting point. The broaden collaboration and cooperation with other recommendations presented in this report will help the parts of the weather, water, and climate enterprise. NWS address these challenges, making it more agile The greatest national good is achieved when all parts and effective. This will put it on a path to becoming of the enterprise function optimally to serve the pub- second to none at integrating advances in science and lic and businesses. This process starts with the quality technology into its operations and at meeting user

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SUMMARY 5 needs, leading in some areas and keeping pace in save more lives, and help more businesses. And it will others. It will have the highest quality core capabilities have leveraged these capabilities through the broader among national weather services. It will have a more enterprise. This approach will make possible societal agile organizational structure and workforce that will benefits beyond what the NWS budget alone allows. allow it to directly or indirectly reach more end users,

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