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1 Introduction BACKGROUND The United States has launched a bold and innovative program to modernize the National Weather Service (NWS), a major component of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) of the Depart- ment of Commerce. The modernization involves new observational technol- ogy, both at the surface and with weather satellites; powerful new information and forecast systems; and a new organizational structure. It promises to pro- vide a dramatic improvement in weather services to the nation, including more accurate and timely predictions of those weather events that have regular and dramatic impact on both private and public activities. Modernization of the NWS thus offers great opportunities to the nation, but it is also a complex undertaking. The National Research Council's National Weather Service Modernization Committee endorses the organiza- tional approach and implementation philosophy of the NWS, but recognizes the challenges ahead; success will depend on the continuity of strong leader- ship, of good management, and of adequate resources. Although the Commit- tee is impressed with the progress the NWS has made, it is also cognizant of the commitment required by the federal government, NOAA, and the NWS to complete successfully the modernization and revitalization of the nation's weather services. BROAD RECOMMENDATIONS Recommendation: The success of the National Weather Service modernization requires an increased commitment of resources and personnel to the many scientific, technical, and organizational chal- lenges involved. Parsimony now will be expensive later. 13

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Recommendation: The National Weather Service modernization requires the development and implementation of complex observation and information systems. Rigorous and creative management of the overall structure and of the individual components of each of these systems is essential for success. The system management capabilities of the National Weather Service must be strengthened through the commitment of additional resources and personnel. Recommendation: Modernization of the National Weather Service involves a variety of scientific and technical issues and challenges. The National Weather Service and the National Oceanic and Atmo- spheric Administration should create technical advisory panels for each of the major systems that contribute to the technological mod- ernization. However, these panels cannot substitute for the addi- tional resources and personnel recommended. GOALS AND COMPONENTS OF THE MODERNIZATION In its Strategic Plan for the Modernization and Associated Restructuring of the National Weather Service, the Department of Commerce (DOC, 1989) set the following goal: "To modernize the NWS through the deployment of proven obser- vational, information processing and communications technologies, and to establish an associated cost effective operational structure. The modernization and associated restructuring of NWS shall assure that the major advances which have been made in our ability to observe and understand the atmosphere are applied to the practical problems of providing weather and hydrologic services to the Nation." The more specific goals set forth in the National Implementation Plan for the Modernization and Associated Restructuring of the NWS (DOC, 1990) are: • "Operational realization of a predictive warning program focusing on mesoscale meteorology and hydrology; • "Advancement of the science of meteorology and hydrology, • "Development of NWS human resources to achieve maximum benefit from recent scientific and technological advances; • "User acceptance and support of NWS modernization and associated restructuring service improvement objectives; • "Strengthening cooperation with the mass media, universities, the research community and the private hydrometeorological sector to collec- tively fulfill the nation's weather information needs from provision of 14

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severe weather warnings and general forecasts for the public as a whole, which is a Government responsibility, to the provision of detailed and customer specific weather information, which is a private sector responsi- bility, • "Achievement of productivity gains through automation and replacement of obsolete technological systems; and • "Operation of the optimum NWS warning and forecast system consistent with service requirements, user acceptability, and affordability." Since World War II, significant improvements have been made in the prediction of large-scale weather features (high pressure areas, large storms) owing to increased knowledge of atmospheric processes, new observational techniques such as radar and satellites, and the advent of large computers and numerical prediction models. However, improvements in the forecasting and warning of smaller-scale phenomena (hurricanes, severe thunderstorms, tornadoes, flash floods) have been less dramatic. Yet recent scientific advances in the understanding of these phenomena and new capabilities to observe and rapidly process information on these smaller scales (from a few to several hundred miles) now permit a major advance in weather service to the nation. As a result, the NWS is engaged in a dramatic transformation involving new sources of information about the atmosphere, new ways of employing that information effectively and making it available to a wide community of users, and new ways of providing the forecasts and warnings that will lead to enhanced protection of life and property. This modernization of the NWS offers great opportunity to the nation. The successful implementation of four key components of the moderniza- tion initiative is essential to realize its full potential. Modernization requires: • more powerful observation technology, including Doppler radar, auto- matic observing systems, and enhanced satellite systems now being developed, as well as new systems such as wind profilers and a lightning detection network, that together will produce unprecedented, high- resolution, continuing information on the state of the atmosphere; • more powerful systems and concepts for transmitting this information, converting it into forecasts and warnings, and making timely information about the atmosphere available to a variety of users in the public and private sectors; 15

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a new organizational structure that enhances the potential for service to the public by taking advantage of the collective skills of a highly trained cadre of professional meteorologists; and a new commitment to collaboration with the universities and the private sector in meteorology to enhance the understanding of the atmosphere, along with the development of effective new applications of atmospheric knowledge to ensure the continuing evolution of weather service capabili- ties in the decades ahead. The NWS plans for modernization, which are summarized below, provide for all four of these key components. NEW OBSERVATION SYSTEMS Next Generation Weather Radar (NEXRAD) units utilize Doppler radar technology to measure the radial wind velocity in severe weather elements such as thunderstorms, to provide improved estimates of precipitation amounts, to detect the transition between rain and snow, and to track storm movement and intensity. The new radars also will allow for earlier detection of the precursors of tornadic activity, thunderstorm development, and other important weather phenomena. The NWS will operate 121 NEXRAD sys- tems, and the FAA and DOD will operate another 39, for a total of 160 systems in a national network. This is a significant improvement in coverage and quality compared to today's radar network, in which most of the units are more than 30 years old. The NEXRAD program is currently in a limited production phase; full-scale production is expected to begin in 1991,' with completion of all installations planned for 1995. Automated Surface Observing System (ASOS) units will be installed initially at more than 1000 locations in the United States in a cooperative program with the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) and the Department of Defense (DOD). These units will provide surface weather information on a nearly continuous basis and in a uniform manner. The ASOS network will provide the basic data required for severe weather, flash flood, and river forecasting, as well as for support of aviation operations. The automation will free personnel for other activities and allow future expansion of the network at much less cost than presently required with manual observations. The This and subsequent schedule dates in this chapter are from The National Implementation Plan for the Modernization and Associated Restructuring of the National Weather Service (DOC, 1990). 16

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ASOS units now are being produced and installed in the field with completion expected in fiscal year 1995. Next Generation Geostationary Operational Environmental Satellites (GOES-Next) are under development, with the first launch officially scheduled in 1992. The new GOES will allow atmospheric soundings and cloud images to be obtained simultaneously (only one or the other can be obtained from the current GOES). Both observations will also be of higher quality and resolu- tion. New images can be provided as frequently as every six minutes during severe weather conditions. These advances are very important for improved prediction of severe storms and flash floods. Recommendation: Modernization must continue beyond the imple- mentation of systems now being procured. Provision should be made to incorporate data from additional new technology, such as wind profilers and a lightning detection network, and to take advantage of scientific developments as well as improved computational and information systems as they become available. NEW INFORMATION SYSTEMS The Advanced Weather Interactive Processing System (AWIPS) will be the key component of each of the new Weather Forecast Offices (WFOs) and River Forecast Centers (RFCs) of the NWS. The AWIPS unit and its associ- ated communications will be the data integrator at each WFO, receiving high- resolution data from the observation systems; centrally collected data, analy- ses, and guidance products from the National Meteorological Center (NMC) in Suitland, Maryland; and products from the National Hurricane Center in Miami, Florida, and the National Severe Storms Forecast Center in Kansas City, Missouri. This integrated and continuously updated data base is the source from which all warnings and forecasts issued by the WFO will be prepared. The AWIPS, by providing fast-response interactive data analysis and display, will be the information system used by the meteorologist on duty to prepare warnings and forecasts and to disseminate these products rapidly to the public and other users. The AWIPS also will include a new communications system to support NWS operations; it will provide for: • Point-to-multipoint distribution of centrally collected or produced con- ventional and satellite data, analyses, and guidance products to the WFOs. This function is part of the NOAAPORT data access concept whereby NWS and other NOAA products, including oceanographic and environmental data, will be delivered to external users, both private and public. 17

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• Point-to-point networking of the WFOs, RFCs, National Centers, Auto- mated Surface Observing System, and other observation sites. • Multipoint-to-point collection at the NMC of the locally produced data and products for use in numerical weather forecasting, international data exchange, and data archiving. The AWIPS definition phase is drawing to a close; the two-year development phase will start in fiscal year 1992. The deployment phase is expected to begin in fiscal year 1994 and to extend well into the latter half of the decade. The key pacing item for full implementation of the NWS modernization and associated restructuring is AWIPS. More powerful super computers at the NMC are critical to improving the accuracy of numerical weather forecasts, particularly at the smaller scales of atmospheric motion. Numerical models of the atmosphere must run on large, high-speed computers to have the spatial resolution and timeliness needed in today's weather forecasting. The requirements for computer- generated guidance products in support of forecasting severe storms are significantly increased over those previously needed. For example, a high- resolution model, with a horizontal resolution of 30 km and improved physics, is now being developed that requires a much larger computer capability than the Class VI computers previously used at the NMC for models with a resolution of 85 km. The first Class VII computer was installed at the NMC in 1990. The NWS hopes to obtain budget approval soon for a second super computer at NMC. NEW STRUCTURE OF THE NATIONAL WEATHER SERVICE At present the main field forecast offices of the NWS are 52 Weather Service Forecast Offices (WSFOs) whose responsibilities are organized on a geographical basis; in many cases there is one WSFO per state. In addition, there are 197 smaller offices, including Weather Service Offices (WSOs) and Weather Service Meteorological Observatories, that take manual weather observations and, in the case of WSOs, issue local area forecasts and warnings based on the products of the WSFOs. Thirteen River Forecast Centers (RFCs), which primarily provide flood warnings and river stage and water supply forecasts, are located to cover the contiguous 48 states and Alaska. Six RFCs are collocated with WSFOs. The hydrologjc forecasts and warnings prepared by the RFCs are disseminated by the WSFOs and selected WSOs. The work of these operational field facilities is supported by the National Meteorological Center, the National Hurricane Center, and the National Severe Storms Forecast Center. 18

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A fundamental change in the structure of the NWS is planned as part of the proposed modernization. There will be 115 Weather Forecast Offices (WFOs) at locations determined primarily by the coverage of Next Generation Weather Radar systems to be installed nearby and not by political (e.g., state) boundaries. All the remaining WSOs and Weather Service Meteorological Observatories, other than those that will be converted to WFOs, will be dosed. The observing functions at these WSOs and Weather Service Meteor- ological Observatories will be automated. The forecast and warning responsi- bilities of the WSOs to be dosed will be assumed by the appropriate WFOs using the improved observation, information processing, and dissemination systems. The NWS expects that services to be provided to areas now covered by WSOs scheduled for closure will be at least as good as those provided today. As at present, the field forecast offices will be supported by the three national centers (National Meteorological Center, National Hurricane Center, and National Severe Storms Forecast Center) and the 13 RFCs. All of the RFCs will be collocated with WFOs. Concern about possible deterioration in local forecast and warning services with the closing or relocation of many of the existing NWS offices led the U.S. Congress (1988) to include in Public Law 100-685 the provision: "The Secretary [of Commerce] may not close, consolidate, automate, or relocate any [WSO or WSFO] unless the Secretary has certified—that such action will not result in any degradation of weather services provided to the affected area." NEW AND STRONGER COLLABORATION The current modernization of the NWS and its continuing improvement in the future are vitally dependent on collaboration with both the university community and the private sector. Universities are the prime sources of new meteorologists for the NWS and play a key role in training these future meteorologists in the use of new scientific and technological developments. They are also the leading national source of the scientific and technological advances upon which future improve- ments in NWS services depend. To perform these critical functions, the academic community requires access to data, analysis products, and the tech- nology used in the Weather Forecast Offices (WFOs). To facilitate this collaboration, the NWS is collocating several WFOs with university campuses. The NWS also proposes to increase collaborative development activities; however, so far these activities have not been adequately funded. The NOAA has entered into an agreement with the University Corporation for Atmo- spheric Research for a Cooperative Program for Operational Meteorology, Education and Training, whose stated purposes are (1) to provide mechanisms 19

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to increase and improve the interactions between the academic and research communities and the operational services; (2) to enhance technology transfer to the operational services; and (3) to enhance the professional development of operational meteorologists, hydrologists, and hydrometeorologists. The private sector provides much of the new technology now being implemented in the NWS modernization and also contributes to the techno- logical advances on which operational improvements are based. The most important role of the private sector is probably the prompt and wide dissemi- nation of NWS data, products, forecasts, and warnings, particularly to the general public. Although the private sector does provide these services today, it will become even more important in the era of the modernized NWS. Moreover, the new technology being introduced, particularly the Next Genera- tion Weather Radar (NEXRAD) and the Advanced Weather Interactive Processing System, will require new dissemination capabilities. Therefore, the NWS is improving its communication and coordination with the private sector. It has selected three companies to collect and disseminate NEXRAD data. Increased attention to collaboration with the private sector will be required as modernization of the NWS continues. THE COMMITTEE'S ENDORSEMENT AND INTENT The Committee on National Weather Service Modernization has exam- ined the plans for these components in some detail, and commends the federal government and the NWS for creating a modernization plan that offers tremendous potential for enhanced service to the nation. The recommenda- tions presented in this report are intended to support that effort; to increase its likelihood of success; and to ensure a continuing evolution of the national capability to enhance understanding of the atmosphere and to combine that knowledge with technological advances so as to ameliorate the effects of weather on both public and private activities. 20