3

Evaluate Function and Structure

Functional and structural agility is important for the NWS. Agility enables efficient response to the evolving technological, economic, and policy environment so that the NWS can better meet user needs. Although the MAR improved NWS agility, further evolution has been limited and there is substantial room for improvement. A more flexible staffing structure does not need to be viewed as a threat to staff or the National Weather Service Employees Organization (NWSEO). Given the substantial increase in skill and responsibility envisioned in the Weather-Ready Nation Roadmap (NWS, 2012), it follows that the NWS might well explore ways to better instill agility in its workforce. In the future, the workforce will need an increased capability to interact with third-party providers of weather information with the goal of raising general weather awareness and improving the communication of specific weather threats.

The broad vision of the Weather-Ready Nation paradigm means that a thorough and objective look at the structure of the NWS is appropriate. This chapter presents ways the NWS, through an examination of the scientific and technical aspects of its structure and through workforce training, might increase its agility to face the challenges of the future. In 2012, Congress requested an additional study to examine NWS operations.1 This chapter discusses possible realignment of NWS offices in more detail than in Chapter 1, but the Committee did not have the charge or the expertise to provide a recommendation about restructuring. Rather, several possibilities are outlined, realizing that the follow-on study requested by Congress may come up with different possibilities. This chapter provides details and sub-recommendations in support of Recommendation II. Recommendation II and its sub-recommendations are intended to inform the follow-on operations study.

Recommendation II: Evaluate Function and Structure

In light of evolving technology, and because the work of the National Weather Service (NWS) has major science and technology components, the NWS should evaluate its function and structure, seeking areas for improvement. Any examination of potential changes in the function and organizational structure of the NWS requires significant technical input and expertise, and should include metrics to evaluate the process of structural evolution. Such an examination would include individual NWS field offices, regional

____________

1 “NOAA shall enter into a contract with an independent organization with experience in assessing Federal agencies for the purposes of evaluating efficiencies that can be made to NWS operations. This review shall include consultations with emergency managers and other user groups as well as NWS employees. Any recommended efficiencies should not result in any degradation of service to the communities served by local forecast offices and River Forecast Centers, nor should such recommendations place the safety of the public at greater risk. This review shall not be undertaken until the National Academy of Sciences completes its review of the NWS modernization, which will include recommendations on the NWS workforce and composition and how NWS can improve current partnerships with Federal and non-Federal partners and incorporate new technologies for improved services. The findings and recommendations of the National Academy of Sciences review should inform this new independent assessment” (U.S. Congress, 2012).



The National Academies | 500 Fifth St. N.W. | Washington, D.C. 20001
Copyright © National Academy of Sciences. All rights reserved.
Terms of Use and Privacy Statement



Below are the first 10 and last 10 pages of uncorrected machine-read text (when available) of this chapter, followed by the top 30 algorithmically extracted key phrases from the chapter as a whole.
Intended to provide our own search engines and external engines with highly rich, chapter-representative searchable text on the opening pages of each chapter. Because it is UNCORRECTED material, please consider the following text as a useful but insufficient proxy for the authoritative book pages.

Do not use for reproduction, copying, pasting, or reading; exclusively for search engines.

OCR for page 39
3 Evaluate Function and Structure F unctional and structural agility is important for NWS offices in more detail than in Chapter 1, but the the NWS. Agility enables efficient response to Committee did not have the charge or the expertise the evolving technological, economic, and policy to provide a recommendation about restructuring. environment so that the NWS can better meet user Rather, several possibilities are outlined, realizing that needs. Although the MAR improved NWS agility, the follow-on study requested by Congress may come further evolution has been limited and there is sub- up with different possibilities. This chapter provides stantial room for improvement. A more flexible staffing details and sub-recommendations in support of Rec- structure does not need to be viewed as a threat to staff ommendation II. Recommendation II and its sub- or the National Weather Service Employees Organiza- recommendations are intended to inform the follow-on tion (NWSEO). Given the substantial increase in skill operations study. and responsibility envisioned in the Weather-Ready Nation Roadmap (NWS, 2012), it follows that the Recommendation II: Evaluate Function and Structure NWS might well explore ways to better instill agility in its workforce. In the future, the workforce will need In light of evolving technology, and because the an increased capability to interact with third-party work of the National Weather Service (NWS) has providers of weather information with the goal of major science and technology components, the NWS raising general weather awareness and improving the should evaluate its function and structure, seeking communication of specific weather threats. areas for improvement. Any examination of potential The broad vision of the Weather-Ready Nation changes in the function and organizational structure paradigm means that a thorough and objective look at of the NWS requires significant technical input and the structure of the NWS is appropriate. This chapter expertise, and should include metrics to evaluate the presents ways the NWS, through an examination of process of structural evolution. Such an examination the scientific and technical aspects of its structure and would include individual NWS field offices, regional through workforce training, might increase its agility to face the challenges of the future. In 2012, Congress service to the communities served by local forecast offices and River requested an additional study to examine NWS opera- Forecast Centers, nor should such recommendations place the safety tions.1 This chapter discusses possible realignment of of the public at greater risk. This review shall not be undertaken until the National Academy of Sciences completes its review of the NWS modernization, which will include recommendations on 1 "NOAA shall enter into a contract with an independent the NWS workforce and composition and how NWS can improve organization with experience in assessing Federal agencies for current partnerships with Federal and non-Federal partners and the purposes of evaluating efficiencies that can be made to NWS incorporate new technologies for improved services. The findings operations. This review shall include consultations with emergency and recommendations of the National Academy of Sciences review managers and other user groups as well as NWS employees. Any should inform this new independent assessment" (U.S. Congress, recommended efficiencies should not result in any degradation of 2012). 39

OCR for page 39
40 WEATHER SERVICES FOR THE NATION and national headquarters and management, as well tion with, key segments of local populations, it might as the National Centers and the weather-related parts be advantageous to relocate some WFOs to sites more of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Adminis- convenient to the major centers being served. In doing tration (NOAA) such as the National Environmental so, provision would be needed to avoid single-point- Satellite, Data, and Information Service (NESDIS) of-failure configurations such as that which impacted and the Office of Oceanic and Atmospheric Research the Huntsville area during the April 2011 tornado (OAR). event (NWS, 2011a). Other potential benefits of office relocation include the opportunity to locate offices in POSSIBLE REALIGNMENT OF OFFICES hardened facilities2 and to pay rent to avoid capital costs associated with maintenance. The NWS field office structure established during Furthermore, regionalization of some functions the MAR was designed to provide more nearly uniform might enhance the overall NWS capability to provide coverage of service across the contiguous United States. critically needed services to its customers. This region- In the broad sense, that goal has been accomplished alization could take any one of a myriad of different reasonably well. Uniform service does not necessarily possible forms and need not be established in the same require uniform geographical office coverage. It does way across the entire country. Although not endorsing require, as much as is scientifically and technically any particular strategy, the Committee has identified possible, uniformity of data and information as input some plausible courses of action regarding the future to and verification (for future improvement) of fore- functions and related structure of the NWS. These cast services. For example, the spatial resolution of the include business as usual, optimized collocation, and NEXRAD radar beam degrades linearly with increas- regionalization of selected NWS functions. ing distance, and the height above the ground covered by the lowest scan increases at an even faster rate. For Business as Usual information (other than remotely sensed data) about the situation in the more distant areas, the forecasters The current post-MAR structure of the NWS rely on data from ASOS-type automated sensors and could be maintained going forward. The most obvious reports communicated from persons in the area. Under advantage, of course, is continuity. The 122 WFOs those conditions the actual distance of the forecaster could keep their slate of responsibilities covering many from the area being served becomes immaterial. fronts. Little or no immediate cost would be involved. The NEXRAD radars are situated away from However, the Weather-Ready Nation Roadmap as major population centers to avoid such things as beam set forth by the NWS expects the local staff at each occultation by tall buildings and the copious urban office to expand their skill set, duties, and responsibili- radio frequency interference (RFI) environment. At ties well beyond basic weather forecasting and warn- the time the MAR was planned, the costs of wideband ing functions (NWS, 2012). It will be challenging for communications dictated that the WFOs should be forecasters and related staff to take on such varied tasks, located at or near the NEXRAD sites. In some cases, with or without the help of the newly created emer- this meant moving away from the previous Weather gency response specialists (ERSs) that are dispatched to Service Forecast Office (WSFO) location within such areas where high-impact weather events are occurring a population center, with concomitant diminishing of or expected. the ease of communicating with emergency managers As it stands now, staffing at the WFOs gener- and other key responders in that center. ally maintains two meteorologists on duty for each The burgeoning capability now available for low- shift. Out of the 16 man-hours, 4 to 8 hours a day are cost wideband communications relaxes the constraint invested in generating the public or "zone" forecasts. for proximate location of a WFO and NEXRAD. That This includes time for data and model analysis and makes it possible to consider some further realignment interpretation, ingesting and modifying gridded data of the WFO structure. For example, in view of the 2 A "hardened facility" is one that can withstand natural or man- increasing importance of linkages to, and communica- made disasters, including acts of terrorism.

OCR for page 39
EVALUATE FUNCTION AND STRUCTURE 41 into workstations, running the appropriate programs to could aid in R2O/O2R. Other options for collocation produce the forecasts, and post-editing forecasts before include local emergency management facilities (e.g., they are issued. One forecaster is generally responsible the Houston/Galveston WFO) or other key partners. for this process. A second forecaster is responsible for In addition to collocation of WFOs, other parts of the aviation, fire, and other short-term products (Molleda, NWS could benefit from collocation. For example, R., NWS Miami WFO, personal communication to NOAA could consider collocating relevant ESRL member of the Committee). research units with NCEP in the National Center for Keeping in mind that--as reported in this Com- Weather and Climate Prediction to improve the transi- mittee's first report--the WFOs are "staffed for fair tion of R2O in numerical weather prediction. weather" (NRC, 2012a), any severe weather or flood threats require careful planning by local management Regionalization of Selected NWS Functions to ensure that there is enough staff to adequately issue life-saving advisories and warnings without compro- Under the recently proposed Weather-Ready Nation mising the issuance of the routine forecast products. paradigm, the NWS expects its professional staff at If a weather event "blows up" beyond expectations or both the local and the regional level to be able to occurs unexpectedly, the WFO meteorologists on shift provide critical decision support before, during, and can end up being spread too thin (Proenza, 2011). after a wide variety of potential weather and weather- Maintaining the current functional structure of the related high-impact events (NWS, 2012). Although NWS will require continued vigilance to avoid these traditionally the emergency management community situations. Because there is a need for field office mete- and local broadcast media outlets have been the only orologists to invest appropriate time in analyzing local direct beneficiaries of this office-to-office linkage or weather patterns, there needs to be flexibility in the professional-to-professional contact, now the spec- system to enable other resources, either in the same or trum of potential partners or users of this critically other offices to assist in these tasks. This will be needed important hydrometeorological support has widened. to address the increasingly complex impact-weather The list of field office staff duties--ranging from the support tasks required under Weather-Ready Nation. lead forecasters to the supporting hydrometeorological technicians--now includes many tasks that were not Optimized Collocation considered part of the workday prior to Weather-Ready Nation (NWS, 2012). This is particularly true in times The post-MAR locations of WFOs are largely of impending severe weather. based on proximity to their respective NEXRAD radar. Several NWS Service Assessments have described This has led to some forecast offices not being opti- how it is often only through careful planning by local mally located within their community. Instead of being managers and the assigning of overtime shifts that the located in a population center close to key partners such NWS can provide adequate life- and property-saving as broadcast media and emergency managers, WFOs weather-warning services to their area of responsibil- are often located outside major population centers. ity (NRC, 2012a). As such, unexpected but potentially Under this scenario, the NWS could reconsider the dangerous weather events can suddenly arise and over- location of its WFOs. For example, many WFOs could whelm the staff on duty. In addition, the skill set of the simply be moved closer to the primary community meteorologists, hydrologists, management, and support- within their area of responsibility. Depending on the ing staff has had to expand. Incremental and continual community, new locations could be chosen for their training is required so that staff learns new techniques proximity to broadcast media markets or emergency or augments its knowledge and skills. management facilities. Such a restructuring would also A significant percentage of the man-hours on each allow the NWS to achieve the benefits of collocation. work shift at the NWS field offices is spent by staff The Committee's first report (NRC, 2012a) dis- studying observational and remote sensing data, analyz- cussed the advantages of collocating a WFO within ing the synoptic weather scenario, and comparing NWP university or research facilities, and such collocation models from varied sources, all in an effort to come up

OCR for page 39
42 WEATHER SERVICES FOR THE NATION with a forecast for the local area of responsibility. While The most important benefit from the regionaliza- in the past this forecasting task could arguably only be tion of the public weather forecast task is to diminish completed in situ, rapid technological changes--not the the chances of the local staff being overwhelmed during least of which is the expanding utility of the internet-- severe weather outbreaks. The extra time at the local allow for meteorologists to prepare forecasts for loca- offices can be invested in the increasingly important tions hundreds or thousands of miles away. Regardless role of coordinating and communicating impact- of where a forecast is written, it is generally or greatly weather decision support. More time would also be based on the output from NWP models. Model output available for training. Keeping in mind Lesson 4 from serves as a basis for nearly all weather forecasts accessed the Committee's first report, the NWS would need by the public over the NWS web pages. As part of the to engage the members of its workforce whose career forecast process, the meteorologists at the field offices would be affected by any change in the NWS structure use the AWIPS workstations to view a map of their and to consider the financial and social effects of reloca- area of responsibility with forecasted values derived tion on personnel. directly from NWP output. The forecaster may or may Meanwhile, the public's access to a quality forecast not adjust the forecast based on his or her expertise cannot be compromised. While there may be local and experience. The final product--gridded forecast weather pattern nuances for each city or county, it data--then serves as the basis from which the public is reasonable to think that a team of forecasters with can retrieve a forecast by choosing a zip code, city name, the tools that the NWS provides, including increased or point on a map. Local knowledge of phenomena, NWP accuracy and associated statistical guidance, terrain, and infrastructure is an important factor in fore- would easily be able to produce a forecast that is just as casting, and it needs to be accounted for in any potential accurate as one produced locally. This is already com- regionalization of functions. mon practice in the private sector, which is often under An in-depth statistical analysis of the relative pressure to produce a very exact and highly tailored comparison of the local product to the NWP-produced forecast based on clients' requests. guidance will be necessary before the NWS con siders The reader is reminded that these three possible moving some or all of this public forecasting task modes of office realignment are advanced purely for to regional centers, freeing up the meteorologists (up to illustrative purposes, and the Committee does not 8 man-hours a day) at the field offices to be able to focus endorse any one of them. Indeed there may be other on high-impact weather event warning, coordination, appropriate forms of restructuring. communication, and enhanced support for its core partners, the additional responsibilities proposed by River Forecast Center Workflow the Weather-Ready Nation Roadmap (NWS, 2012). The responsibility for hazardous weather outlooks, In addition to examining its overall structure, the advisories, and warnings would still reside at the local NWS might also do well to examine the workflow at offices (as deployed today to coincide with NEXRAD its RFCs. As identified in this Committee's first report, Doppler radar coverage) in coordination with fore one of the core services NWS hydrologists provide is casters at the regional forecast centers. Field office the quality control and integration of critical hydro meteorologists would still be responsible for aviation meteorological data (NRC, 2012a). RFC staff often and marine weather forecasts. In evaluating its func- spends an inordinate amount of time performing tion and structure, the NWS will need to consider how manual, subjective quality control of hydrometeorologi- much involvement in day-to-day fair weather forecast- cal data and excessive time in developing and populat- ing is necessary to fulfill its mission to protect life and ing relational databases to attribute such data prior property during severe weather. Such a consideration to forecast activities. Although this activity can have would include a statistical analysis of the added value of a beneficial impact on hydrologic forecasts in some the human element in day-to-day fair weather forecast- areas, it implies that major workflow issues center ing, as well as the value of experience in such forecasting around the development of quantitative precipitation in improving severe weather forecast skill. estimate (QPE) and quantitative precipitation fore-

OCR for page 39
EVALUATE FUNCTION AND STRUCTURE 43 cast (QPF) products for use in streamflow forecast- "over-the-loop," as opposed to "in-the-loop," would ing activities, thus limiting time for other necessary shift forecaster duties to general forecast job manage- activities. Poorly maintained precipitation and stream- ment, model data assimilation, uncertainty quantifica- flow measurement stations, loss of stations, out-of-date tion, forecast interpretation, product development, and measurement technology, and poor or untimely com- forecast communication. In essence, time saved from munication of station data all serve to increase forecast laborious subjective data quality control and attribution uncertainty and consume valuable RFC hydrologist tasks needs to be reallocated to continual quantitative, labor time to either reject problem data or render such objective system assessment, forecast production, and observations useful. Frequently, suspect observations communication and model R&D. are manually adjusted or "tuned" to achieve desired streamflow model results. While this approach offers Learning from the Past some flexibility in forecasting efforts, it presents logi- cal complexities in model performance assessment and Since the April 1957 tornadoes in Dallas, Texas, potentially limits opportunities for sustained improve- the NWS has been conducting internal evaluation of ment in model prediction skill. its performance after significant hydrometeorological, Furthermore, continued investment of labor to oceanographic, or geological events that result in fatali- tedious and somewhat subjective quality control and ties. The current NWS Service Assessment guidelines attribution efforts reduces the amount of time service allow for initiation of a team of reviewers when one or hydrologists can spend on forecast innovation and more of the following criteria are met: "Major economic forecast product development efforts. More accurate, impact on a large area or population, multiple fatalities more reliable, more cost-effective technology exists or numerous serious injuries, extensive national public for collecting and quality-controlling hydrometeoro- interest or media coverage, or an unusual level of atten- logical observations but will require capital investment tion to NWS performance." In the 55 years since the and training to implement as was noted in Chapter 2. first National Disaster Survey Report, the NWS has As such, elements of NWS hydrologist workflow are authored almost 150 assessments across tornado, hurri- intimately intertwined with NWS surface observ- cane, flood, winter storm, wildfire, and tsunami events. ing network deficiencies and these issues need to be In each instance, the assessment is led by an internal resolved in tandem. NWS team working with other NWS employees and Generally, NWS hydrologic forecasters are char- an occasional external scientist working as a subject acterized as being extensively "in-the-forecast-loop," matter content consultant. A thorough review of these (i.e., in-the-loop), meaning that numerous hands-on, documents and the recommendations made in them subjective, often time-consuming tasks are required in suggests that the NWS has been lax in implementing order to generate basic forecast products. As discussed changes or unable for a variety of reasons to respond above, this is particularly true for data quality control to changes that have been recommended throughout and attribution tasks, but it is also true for other fore- the years. In one specific example, recommendations cast workflows, including hydrologic prediction model directed at improving the communication of warnings state and parameter adjustment, database querying, and to stakeholders (i.e., emergency managers) have been model execution. The problem is that many of the same repeated in recommendations in Service Assessments issues could be addressed through the adoption of more for the past four decades. Increased attention and an objective, automated data assimilation and ensem- effective management chain for implementing the ble generation techniques that have been developed recommendations and monitoring the agency's per- and validated in the hydrologic research community, formance in responding to these Service Assessments including OHD, over the past 20 years. Furthermore, would lead to greater agility within the NWS. copious manual, subjective manipulation of forecast- To better understand and improve the performance ing workflows likely results in excessive forecaster- of forecasts and warnings, assessments of significant to-forecaster forecast quality variance either within false alarm events, those that result in substantial public or between RFCs. Placing the hydrologic forecaster and emergency management action, also need to be

OCR for page 39
44 WEATHER SERVICES FOR THE NATION carried out. The current system of assessments, which address the full scope of response issues, from fore- focuses only on performance after significant events, casts and warnings, to communication and public may have created a perverse incentive to over-forecast response and be conducted by an appropriate mix events, leading to a large and increasing number of false of individuals from within and outside the NWS. alarms. Indeed, for flash floods the false alarm ratio has They should also include instances of relative success doubled over the past ten years, while for tornadoes the (minimal or no loss of life) to learn valuable lessons false alarm ratio has failed to decline since 1985, stay- from these episodes as well. ing constant at around 80 percent (NRC, 2012a). False alarms may result in a decrease in confidence in official WORKFORCE TRAINING warning sources (Dow and Cutter, 1998), although the likelihood of people responding to a warning is less Any organization that possesses a significant ser- likely to be reduced if the reasons for the false alarm are vice component as part of its core mission is intimately understood and explained (Atwood and Major, 1998; dependent on the capabilities and continued training Sorensen, 2000). of its workforce. This fact is particularly relevant for For a better understanding of fatalities during haz- scientific and technical enterprises such as the NWS. ardous weather events, assessments need to go beyond A series of major workforce evolutions were undertaken forecasts and warnings to also include sirens and other as part of the MAR, and this Committee found that alerts and ultimately address decisions made by the the process of evolving the workforce was highly suc- public during warning situations. Many elements are cessful by many measures (NRC, 2012a). To support beyond the direct control of the NWS. For example, the recommendations in this report and the objectives emergency managers, broadcast media, and newer laid out in the Weather-Ready Nation Roadmap (NWS, social media subscription services all create and enhance 2012) the workforce will again require a significant information that eventually reaches the public during a upgrade in skills and training. hazardous hydrometeorological, oceanographic, or geo- The proposed Weather-Ready Nation paradigm logical event. Assessing the performance in the chain includes a host of new skills that will be required for of events through all these elements requires a broader proper execution of new forecaster duties, particularly view of performance assessment. Composing assess- with regard to interactions with key stakeholders, deci- ment teams with memberships that include additional sion makers, and third-party service providers. The stakeholders beyond NOAA would bring a broader set proposed emphasis in improving core capabilities of of expertise and perspective to these reports. This, in the NWS, as articulated in Chapter 2, will also place turn, would spread understanding and insights to the new demands on NWS staff at function levels rang- wider enterprise. Moreover, having an independent ing from the WFOs to the national centers and on to entity conduct these evaluations could help to maintain management. For example, there will be a growing need the broad perspective and participation. for scientists with multidisciplinary expertise at the national centers as environmental models are coupled Recommendation II.a and advanced. Based on the objectives laid out in the Weather- The National Weather Service (NWS) should Ready Nation Roadmap (NWS, 2012) and in other sec- broaden the scope of the system for evaluating tions of this report, it is evident that skill requirements its forecasts and warnings to include false alarms for NWS staff will accelerate in both breadth and that result in substantial public and/or emergency depth of subject matter. The type and volume of new management response as well as significant hydro foundational datasets to be created by the NWS of the meteorological, oceanographic, or geological events. future will quickly overwhelm staff with only basic or It should consider whether having an independent "classical" meteorological training. This is particularly entity conduct all post-event evaluations of per - true with respect to the interpretation and use of proba- formance after false alarms and significant events bilistic data assimilation and prediction datasets, but it would be more effective. These evaluations should also applies to basic observational data that are created

OCR for page 39
EVALUATE FUNCTION AND STRUCTURE 45 from new observing platforms such as polarimetric and structures and functions within individual offices phased-array radar or hyper-spectral satellite imagery. and between local offices and regional offices and The forecaster of the future will need to increasingly national centers. rely upon, but still understand, automated and objec- tively created data and forecast products and their Basic educational degree requirements are neces- error estimates and will need to largely disengage from sary but insufficient for building a highly efficient and manual, rote subjective manipulation. The forecaster agile workforce that can meet the requirements put will increasingly work to integrate and interpret foun- forth in the Weather-Ready Nation Roadmap. The skill dational datasets in the execution of essential functions sets that will be required to accelerate foundational such as the issuance of watches, warnings, advisories, dataset creation as well as their effective interpretation and guidance. Not only will the depth of knowledge and use at the forecast office/center level frequently required extend beyond traditional meteorological exceed the basic curricula requirements of existing training, the breadth of skill sets required will as well. undergraduate programs. Many topical areas require These subject matters include but are not solely exclu- advanced study either in graduate programs or in sive to meteorology, hydrology, information technology continuing education training modules. This is not (IT), and risk management. only for meteorological disciplines but also for non- The Committee notes that the Weather-Ready meteorological disciplines in which forecasters of the Nation Roadmap proposes to expand workforce skills future will be required to work. primarily by selective retraining (NWS, 2012). The Committee finds that the required depth and breadth Recommendation II.c of new skills can only partially be obtained by retrain- ing, and forecasters and other personnel with new skills To create a workforce that is fully able to utilize will need to be hired. It is possible that a restructuring improved core capabilities and optimally serve the along the lines of the options discussed earlier in this public, the National Weather Service (NWS) should chapter could open up positions for new hiring. When develop performance metrics-based approaches approaching new hiring, the NWS would be wise to to assessing staff skill sets to identify areas where consider ways in which multidisciplinary teams could enhanced capabilities are needed. The NWS should achieve the required breadth of skills and expertise set involve the entire enterprise in working with the out in the Weather-Ready Nation Roadmap. This would academic and research communities to design new allow individuals on the team to possess the necessary curricula to address pre-employment and during- depth of skills in their respective disciplines. employment education and training needs. The In many ways, staff at the WFO, regional center, NWS should also work with the American Meteoro- and NCEP laboratory has already begun transitions, logical Society to update and expand the credential but it is apparent to the Committee that the pace of criteria to reflect the future educational needs of scientific and technological change is outpacing the NWS personnel. The National Weather Service evolution of the workforce. As such, the following rec- Employee Organization should be engaged as early ommendations on accelerating the breadth and depth as possible in the development of both performance- of the workforce are offered. based metrics and improved curricula. Recommendation II.b As discussed in Chapter 2, operationally related research is a key aspect of NWS core capabilities. A Because it is impractical to expect each individual highly agile and efficient workforce requires the capa- at the Weather Forecast Office level to possess all of bility to integrate proven research findings into opera- the requisite skills to capitalize on the quantity and tions (R2O) and translate operational experience into quality of new foundational data being produced, tractable research questions and needs (O2R). Foster- the National Weather Service (NWS) manage - ing this capability is difficult because it requires cultural ment should consider expanding its vision of team flexibility in staff to function in both operational and

OCR for page 39
46 WEATHER SERVICES FOR THE NATION research environments, and it requires staff to be literate into the hydrologic forecasting workflow or to rapidly and up to date on research issues. Similarly, it requires adopting new hydrologic modeling techniques such as research entities--at national centers, in academia, or ensemble prediction and data assimilation. This issue in other enterprise partners--to be literate regard- was noted in a mid-MAR review of hydrometeorologic ing operational protocols and aware of operational operations (NRC, 1996) and remains an issue today. demands. Such capabilities presently exist in some The staffing profile for hydrologists is imbalanced; of parts of the NWS, but those attributes are not widely 600 hydrologist positions, only about 200 are degreed distributed throughout all centers and all offices and hydrologists, and the limited opportunities for career therefore inhibit R2O and O2R activities. In addition, advancement of hydrologists create difficulty in recruit- more generally, this reduces the overall agility of the ing new employees (Carter, 2011). NWS. Existing capabilities for external research col- The lack of capacity to efficiently experiment with laboration need to be extended and include designated and innovate science-based hydrologic forecasting forecast staff in the WFOs and at NCEP. techniques, coupled with an overly regimented work- The breadth and rapid acceleration of weather, flow that emphasizes hands-on, subjective processing water, and climate enterprise activities is resulting in of foundational data, suggests that NWS hydrologic the development of new weather- and water-related prediction technology is potentially becoming out of products and services. Although many of these prod- date and, perhaps most importantly, does not possess ucts and services are developed within the NWS, many an immediate capability to evolve. are not. At times many of these products and services Calibration of NWS-hydrology forecast models may be able to contribute significant benefit to NWS remains a fundamental issue in NWS hydrologic pre- services and, equivalently, many NWS products and diction services. Presently, most of these activities are services may be able to significantly enhance partner largely contracted out to a long-standing private con- activities. To optimize the generation and flow of infor- sulting firm. This is not to say that the procedures used mation throughout the entire enterprise, the NWS will are deficient or suboptimal from a model calibration need to develop a culture of collaboration and, where perspective and the NWS-developed guidelines for appropriate, leveraging. The Committee recognizes how this work is to be executed. The trade-off is that the complexity of this issue; thus, broader interactions RFC staff, particularly new staff, has fewer opportuni- between the NWS and the entire enterprise are dis- ties to develop deep expertise on model implementa- cussed in Chapter 4. tion, calibration, or model assessment activities. In This Committee's first report recognized that essence, the present arrangement of having staff focus effective leadership can play an instrumental role in on the tedious data quality control work while contract- motivating and affecting change in the workforce ing out core hydrologic model calibration and assess- (NRC, 2012a). However, the process for instituting ment activities has the potential to unnecessarily inhibit change cannot only be top-down. Open and functional RFC staff from developing core model assessment and communication mechanisms are required to facilitate calibration skills and therefore limits its capability to constructive dialogue as well as the bottom-up com- innovate improvements in the modeling systems it uses. munication of needs and opportunities. Finally, continuous assessment of service hydrolo- gist skill sets appears to be lacking. It is not clear that Hydrologic Workforce Training the present staff possesses the requisite mastery of modern computational model programming skills (e.g., An ongoing, challenging legacy of the MAR is scientific languages, parallel computing architectures), that the qualifications for hydrologist positions were mastery of the construction and use of new "Earth not updated to require degreed hydrologists. Nega- System Models," a current understanding of hydrologic tive consequences of this staffing challenge include data assimilation methodologies, or command of the limitations in the capability of RFCs to calibrate and preparation and interpretation of meaningful ensemble improve their hydrologic models, and delays in inte- predictions. A fundamental understanding of how cur- grating new observational or analytical technologies rent state-of-the-science hydrologic forecast models

OCR for page 39
EVALUATE FUNCTION AND STRUCTURE 47 are constructed, initialized, and executed is imperative today are far deeper. The needs of NWS hydrolo- if the forecaster is to assume their position over-the- gists to develop a state-of-the-science evolutionary loop, as recommended earlier in this chapter. For the culture go far beyond those criteria. Consequently, forecasters to have the opportunities to acquire these the reeducation of service hydrologist staff, akin skills, there will need to be fundamental changes in the to the transition of the meteorological workforce forecast workflow. under the MAR, needs to be considered. In the end, Staff training will play an important part in RFCs need to be staffed by degreed hydrologists and upgrading service hydrologist capacity to imple- hydrometeorologists with broad and deep expertise in ment the necessary changes in prediction technolo- hydrologic modeling, hydrometeorological processes, gies. Existing Cooperative Program for Operational and hydrologic data analysis. Meteorology, Education, and Training (COMET) modules for hydrology are deemed by many to be Recommendation II.d too narrow and too elementary for the envisioned staff capacity development. While COMET is good The National Weather Service (NWS) service- for teaching some topical fundamentals, or for some hydrologist staff requires re-education and continual basic cross-training activities for non-subject-matter re-training if NWS hydrologic prediction services are experts (e.g., teaching hydrology to degreed meteo- to be able to adopt current state-of-the-science pre- rologists), or for teaching some new standards of diction methodologies and instill the evolutionary practice, the educational needs of service hydrologists culture required for optimal hydrologic services.

OCR for page 39