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OCR for page 32
New Information Systems Improved information systems are critical to the NWS modernization and associated restructuring. The key component of each modernized Weather Forecast Office (WFO) will be the Advanced Weather Interactive Processing System (AWIPS) supported by a new communications system that includes the NOAAPORT data access concept. Improved numerical forecast and guidance products, with higher space and time resolution, are required by the WFOs to improve their forecasts and warnings of small-scale weather features. In turn, these improvements necessitate enhanced computer capability and refined atmospheric models at the National Meteorological Center. ADVANCED WEATHER INTERACTIVE PROCESSING SYSTEM Extended developmental work by the Program for Regional Observing and Forecasting Services of the NOAA Environmental Research Laboratories in collaboration with the NWS has created the foundation for the AWIPS system. The Program for Regional Observing and Forecasting Services developed the Denver AWIPS Risk Reduction and Requirements Evaluation (DAR E) system as an experimental prototype of AWIPS. DAR3E units are now operating at the Weather Service Forecast Offices in Denver, Colorado and Norman, Oklahoma. The Committee was very impressed with the capabilities, versatility, and "user-friendliness" of the DAR3E system and has a favorable impression about the equipment, the system, and the personnel developing it. The Environmental Research Laboratories and NWS personnel devoted 10 years to planning, developing, and testing prototypes and appear to have thought through all of the necessary procedures and potential prob- lems. If unforseen problems are encountered, the personnel involved can be expected to resolve them. 32

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The experience of the Program for Regional Observing and Forecasting Services and DAR3E has provided an excellent basis for proceeding with AWIPS. The definition phase of the AWIPS development, involving two competing contractors, is drawing to a close. The Committee is pleased that AWIPS will use "off-the-shelf hardware components and, wherever possible, a standard operating system and programming languages. This will facilitate the maintenance and future evolution of AWIPS. The two-year developmental phase with a single contractor is scheduled to begin early in fiscal year 1992. Attention must now turn to providing adequate access by private meteor- ologists and weather services, and by universities to raw data and information from AWIPS. In the case of private weather services, raw data are often needed to generate unconventional but highly useful information and products. Universities provide a large pool of creative talent to derive new products and techniques, but they also require raw data to do so. Costs may be incurred in providing these data to the university community, but the returns will eclipse these costs as new information is produced. Recommendation: The National Weather Service, in consort with the university community and private sector users of National Weather Service data and information, should develop viable plans for broad access to the raw data and information that will become available via the Advanced Weather Interactive Processing System, keeping in mind the benefits such collaboration can provide to the government, the public, and the private sector. The Committee is favorably impressed with the prototypes of AWIPS and the capabilities that are afforded to meteorologists and hydrologists in producing warnings and forecasts. However, it is concerned with the steady slippage of the schedule for full implementation. This has resulted in a two- phased approach. The AWIPS is essential to the conduct of the Moderniza- tion and Associated Restructuring Demonstration. Also, without this system, Weather Forecast Offices will be unable to use the new observational technol- ogy in an effective manner or to reduce staff through restructuring while increasing service effectiveness. Recommendation: The Administration and Congress should take the necessary steps to maintain the implementation schedule for the Advanced Weather Interactive Processing System and its associated communications. 33

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SUPER COMPUTERS AT THE NATIONAL METEOROLOGICAL CENTER To achieve the primary objective of modernization, Weather Forecast Offices will need numerical weather forecasts and guidance products from the National Meteorological Center (NMC) that have a higher space and time resolution than those now available. The first new Class VII super computer has been installed at the NMC, and an improved small-scale atmospheric computer model with a horizontal resolution of 30 km and improved physics is being developed. Funds are being requested beginning in fiscal year 1992 for a second super computer to facilitate production of more accurate numeri- cal forecasts of smaller-scale weather elements and to provide increased reliability through backup of the most important processing. Greater sophis- tication in understanding the atmosphere, which will lead to improved, more complex models, and the rapidly growing volume of observations mandate the acquisition of the most advanced computational capability to realize additional forecasting improvements. Thus, computational facilities must be continuously improved. 34