Click for next page ( 35


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 34
4 Management and Operational Support LEADERSHIP NWS leaders have expended substantial efforts to plan the current modernization and acquire new technology. In particular, the committee commends the NWS for the great strides made in the modernization of the NWS hydrology program, especially when one considers the funding uncer- tainties and the pressures of many oversight groups. Not- withstanding these efforts, the committee identified a num- ber of issues that require attention from NWS leaders; these issues surfaced during briefings at the NWS headquarters, visits to field offices, and in other interactions with field personnel. Program Responsibilities and Perceptions In contacts with field office personnel, including a review of questionnaire responses, the committee found many misperceptions, misunderstandings, or distrust of modern- ization activities related to hydrologic and hydrometeoro- logical functions, products, and services. In particular, the benefits of the integration of certain hydrologic and meteo- rological duties and responsibilities are neither clearly un- derstood nor readily accepted in many field offices. As de- scribed in Chapter 2, the coupling of hydrologic and hydro- meteorological service components in the RFCs (River Fore- cast Centers) and WFOs (Weather Forecast Offices) will re- quire efficient working relationships in all RFC and WFO operations to provide timely and accurate products and ser- vices to public, private, and government users. Conclusion. Misunderstandings about the roles and respon- sibilities of personnel within these operational elements of the NWS particularly with respect to hydrometeorological duties need to be resolved at all levels of the organization. The committee found, for example, that flash flood fore- casting is not perceived by NWS personnel in some field offices as having high-priority support from NWS headquar- ters. Part of that perception stemmed from delays in pro- gram testing and risk-reduction efforts caused by the 34 unavailability of hardware and software programs to handle the vast amounts of hydrologic and hydrometeorological data and the local models for flash flood products. Another source of that perception was the seeming lack of "owner- ship" of flash flood programs. Program and development responsibilities are seen by field offices as being split between the Office of Hydrology and the Office of Me- teorology, with neither in total charge of the entire hy- drology and hydrometeorology modernization program for flash floods. Recommendation 4-1. The NWS must communicate the objectives of the hydrologic and hydrometeorological as- pects of the modernization program and progress that has been made in the program more effectively to its employees as well as to users of its services. In particular, the NWS should ensure that responsibilities for the integrated hydrol- ogy and hydrometeorology programs are clearly assigned and understood at all levels of the NWS. Interdisciplinary advisory or working groups such as the Service Hydrologist Working Group could be essential intermediaries in this communication process. Availability of Advanced Weather Interactive Processing System The AWIPS (Advanced Weather Interactive Processing System) is an essential element of data collection, quality control, processing, and electronic dissemination of hydro- logic and hydrometeorological data. The AWIPS is also es- sential to the integration of data, analyses, and models that enable improvements in river and flash flood forecasting programs. Although NWS leaders have pressed consistently to implement the AWIPS, a variety of technical, funding, and political setbacks have slowed the development and implementation program. As of November 1996, only 9 out of 147 planned units had been delivered to field offices. At this point in the modernization and restructuring, the relative absence of the AWIPS is preventing full realization of the benefits of the modernization program. As data from other

OCR for page 34
MANAGEMENT AND OPERATIONAL SUPPORT new technology systems have become available, the lack of AWIPS work-station capabilities continues to cause grow- ing inefficiencies in data processing and data integrations which, in fast-breaking weather situations, will result in less accurate and timely warnings than those possible with the newer work-station technologies. Indeed, it appears that some of the dissatisfaction with the modernization found among field office staff is due to the slow pace of the AWIPS implementation and the problems it has engendered. Conclusion. Should the national implementation of the AWIPS continue to be delayed, it is certain that the volumi- nous data streams now being produced will not be used to their full potential. It is even possible that they will have a negative impact on hydrologic operations in a modernized NWS because the sheer volume of new data will at times overwhelm human processing capabilities. Recommendation 4-2. The AWIPS implementation pro- gram should be expedited to enable NWS offices to ex- ploit the use of data from new technologies and to realize improvements in the river and flash flood forecasts and warnings. Responsiveness and Follow-Through Activities The NWS has expended substantial time and effort in conducting national disaster surveys, usually in conjunction with representatives from other federal agencies. However, the committee found no cohesive effort to document NWS progress or follow-on activities in hydrologic or hydro- meteorological operations or programs in response to rec- ommendations in previous national disaster survey reports. The same is true for hydrology recommendations made in previous National Research Council reports on the NWS modernization program. The committee also found no sys- tematic procedures to update planning documents, such as Hydrometeorological Service Operations for the 1990s (NWS, 1991,1996a), as technology and development activi- ties progress. Such external inputs and reviews provide valu- able feedback on the modernization and restructuring effort. Conclusion. It is not enough to respond to external over- sight with ad hoc adjustments that are recognized only inter- nally; more-formal responses and follow-up reports are war- ranted and will improve the support the modernization and restructuring receives from the meteorology and hydrology community at large. Recommendation 4-3. The NWS should establish a sys- tematic method to report formally on activities related to recommendations for changes in its operations, products, or services that appear in disaster surveys and other policy- related oversight reports. NWS planning documents should be updated routinely to reflect such changes. 35 Funding Some of the misunderstandings and criticisms of delays or priorities in the modernization of hydrology and hydro- meteorology programs can be traced to inadequate or incon- sistent funding of these programs. NWS management often has few alternatives other than to stretch programs or delay acquisition, tests, or other modernization activities. The re- sultant turbulence ripples through the management and op- erational echelons to field offices, where the application of new technologies is sorely needed to improve products and services. Continued inefficiencies in the use of old technolo- gies frustrate field office personnel because the effective- ness of their operations and services is hampered. These is- sues have been documented in various national disaster sur- vey reports (NOAA, 1994c). Funding cuts or reallocations by Congress, the U.S. De- partment of Commerce, and the NOAA (NOAA, 1994b, 1995b) have caused delays in the development and imple- mentation programs for the Geostationary Operational En- vironmental Satellite, NEXRAD, and AWIPS (NRC, 1994, 1995~. As a result, NWS forecasters have had to rely on old workstation technologies and outdated forecasting practices to provide forecasts and warnings. Needed improvements in forecast accuracy and in the efficiency of forecast operations have been delayed. Risk-reduction activities for hydrology and hydrometeorology were also delayed several years be- cause of insufficient hardware and software assets in the NWS. Prior reports of this committee urged that funding commitments be kept and even increased to enable the mod- ernization to proceed smoothly and on schedule (NRC, l991b, 1992~. Conclusion. Inadequate or inconsistent funding of NWS hydrology and hydrometeorology programs yields additional costs, not only in the programs themselves, but also in prop- erty losses and even human lives. Recommendation 4-4. Congressional action is needed to assure continuity of the funding required to complete the NWS modernization as expeditiously as possible. RESEARCH, DEVELOPM ENT, TESTING, AND EVALUATION According to NWS plans (NWS, 1996a), the Office of ~~ ~ ~ ~~ ^ ~ ~ ~ ^ national pro flydrology will focus on the development of gram policy, procedures, and service directives in support of the NWS hydrology program. The Office of Hydrology will also provide technical development, implementation guid- ance, and maintenance support for nationally supported hy- drologic systems and procedures at both RFCs and WFOs. A major focus of the Office of Hydrology will continue to be the development and support of applications software to capitalize on the new hydrometeorological technologies of the modernized NWS. A significant effort will continue in the Hydrology Research Laboratory to develop and improve

OCR for page 34
36 ASSESSMENT OF HYDROLOGIC AND HYDROMETEOROLOGICAL OPERATIONS AND SERVICES hydrologic and hydrometeorological techniques for river and flash flood forecasting on both an areal and site-specific ba- sis. The committee commends the Office of Hydrology and the Hydrology Research Laboratory for establishing an ex- tensive and aggressive software development effort for new tools and techniques for hydrology and hydrometeorology applications at RFCs and WFOs. Research and Development Given its small size, the NWS supports a relatively sig- nificant research and development program that has pro- duced very useful results. The interactive hydrology forecast applications for pre-AWIPS workstation platforms are inno- vative and path breaking. Both the NWSRFS (NWS River Forecast System) and the WHFS (WFO Hydrologic Fore- cast System) are key contributions to the modernization, and their early completion represents two major milestones for the AWIPS. The Office of Hydrology is also involved in climate re- search related to global change. The observation network maintenance, data quality control, and data assimilation ac- tivities of the NOAA and NWS personnel contribute to the national global change research program through the Global Energy and Water Cycle Experiment Continental-Scale In- ternational Project. (This project is a multiyear hydrology and climate research initiative focused on the Mississippi River Basin.) An improved understanding of the interannual variability of the global energy and water cycle is relevant to the main objectives of the Water Resources Forecasting Sys- tem as well as to ensemble and long-range forecasting pro- grams in the NOAA. Furthermore, the tasks related to the improvement of land-surface boundary representation (soil and vegetation) in numerical models of the atmosphere will contribute to improvements in guidance products from nu- merical weather prediction models that are used in opera- tional hydrology and meteorology. However, considerably less effort is under way on re- search issues related to the scientific bases of hydrologic procedures and models used in day-to-day operations. Of the existing research programs, few are related to operational flood forecasting. Limited work is under way to: . test and incorporate new and innovative algorithms and parameterizations for the NWSRFS and WHFS hydro- logic components develop improved algorithms to estimate precipitation based on NEXRAD measurements test the performance and validate the use of quantita- tive precipitation forecast and probabilistic quantitative precipitation forecast in hydrologic models develop and evaluate operationally topography-based or distributed flood forecasting procedures Conclusion. Although a modest level of NWS hydrology research is in progress or planned, the overall objectives, priorities, relevance, and cohesiveness of research activities within the Office of Hydrology are unclear or absent. In ad- dition, information on NWS research and development ac- tivities is not received at field offices in a timely manner and often is not considered credible by field office staff. Recommendation 4-5. The NOAA and the NWS should establish a formal, long-term plan for hydrologic science re- search that includes priorities and is relevant to river flood and flash flood forecasting. The NWS should request suffi- cient funding to implement and sustain the research. The plan should be communicated to field personnel so as to improve the overall NWS vision for hydrologic services in the twenty-first century. In addition, NWS headquarters should disseminate regularly to its field offices updates on research and development activities, their specific objec- tives, and timetables. Operational Test and Evaluation Test and risk-reduction activities are in progress at sev- eral sites in the central and northeastern United States (e.g., pre-AWIPS systems at Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, and Taunton, Massachusetts). Conclusion. The committee agrees with concerns expressed at field offices that some procedures and techniques used in these activities are tailored and modified for specific geo- graphic areas and need to be tested for the full range of ad- verse weather experienced in other areas of the United States. Recommendation 4-6. NWS operational test and evalua- tion for hydrology applications, especially flash floods, should be conducted in various regions around the country that experience different types of weather. Recommendation 4-7. Updated information on NWS hy- drology operational test and evaluation activities should be provided to field offices on a routine basis, both to keep employees informed and to encourage broader participation in development and test efforts. ADVISORY GROUPS Early in the modernization planning, the NWS established various working groups (e.g., the Service Hydrologist Work- ing Group, the WFO Hydrologic Systems Group, the AWIPS Requirements Task Team, and Build-9 for NEXRAD) to re- view requirements and to develop plans to improve products and services in hydrology and hydrometeorology. Personnel at all echelons of NWS operations judged the contributions of these groups to be beneficial and effective in the estab- lishment of a sound modernization program. Earlier National Research Council reports (NRC, l991b, 1992) stated that consultation with field personnel would benefit the modern- ization program throughout its development and implemen- tation phases; such benefits were realized. An advisory

OCR for page 34
MANAGEMENT AND OPERATIONAL SUPPORT group, the Service Hydrologist Working Group, was estab- lished in July 1994 to assist with AWIPS software develop- ments pertaining to hydrology. Conclusion. Continuing involvement of field personnel in the modernization is vital. One or more similar advisory or working groups need to be reestablished with reference to the hydrometeorological aspects of the modernization and restructuring. Such a group could provide important feed- back on data quality control, forecast verification, hydro- logic modeling, and precipitation processing techniques. Recommendation 4-8. The NWS should use internal advi- sory groups consistently throughout major planning, devel- opment, test, and implementation phases of the hydrology modernization program. These groups should include field office members and be encouraged to advise NWS head- quarters on matters relating to research and development, operational test and evaluation, and overall modernization implementation. Fl ELD I N ITIATIVES During visits to field offices, the committee found several examples of initiatives in which new flash flood forecasting methodologies had been developed that were potentially use- ful to other offices. Field forecasters who developed these new initiatives had received some help and encouragement from their regional office, but the perception in the field was that they had received little or no support for their efforts from NWS headquarters. More recently, centrally developed or modified site-specific and area-wide hydrologic predic- tion systems have been tested at several locations, and the feedback on their utility is encouraging. Conclusion. The committee perceives that the seeming lack of support for local initiatives has resulted in part from competition for resources designated for centrally managed research and development activities. Local initiatives can be productive, both in the development of useful technologies and in building morale. Such initiatives deserve support at the highest levels. Recommendation 4-9. The NWS should ensure that suffi- cient technical support and resources are available to sup- port a modest level of local initiatives to develop forecasting techniques and methodologies at field offices. INTERNATIONAL PROJECTS The NWS has a long history of supporting international technology transfer activities that make U.S. hydrologic fore- casting methods available worldwide. In recent years the NWS, through its Office of Hydrology, has contributed sub- stantial technology and leadership to river forecasting and water resources management programs in other countries. For example, the modernized NWSRFS has been implemented 37 and tested for river basins in China (Huai River) and Egypt (the Nile). Implementation of state-of-the-art observing and forecasting systems is the main objective of this initiative. These are valuable transfer-of-technology pilot projects for developing countries; the activities use tools and techniques developed by NOAA personnel for operations and training programs. These projects are supported fully by international reim- bursable arrangements. The projects have also benefited the NWS in that it has applied lessons learned in satellite pre- cipitation estimation and other assessment techniques to ap- plications in its national programs. Conclusion. Although the committee was unable to deter- mine clearly whether NWS resources that support interna- tional programs have had a positive or negative impact on the overall hydrology modernization programs, it is con- cerned that this type of activity could compete for key per- sonnel or operational resources during critical development and implementation phases of the modernization. Recommendation 4-10. The NWS participation in interna- tional water resources and climate studies projects should be reevaluated to ascertain its impact on scientific research needs that are more directly related to NWS modernization and hydrologic operations. PERSONNEL Given the substantial changes in hydrology-related roles and functions, both within and across field offices in the modernized NWS, assignment of sufficient numbers of ap- propriately qualified personnel to hydrologic duties is essen- tial to the success of modernized operations. Qualifications The qualification standard for hydrometeorologists re- quires those hydrometeorological personnel with duties that have a meteorological emphasis to have 24 semester hours of core meteorology courses augmented by 6 semester hours in hydrology. Those personnel having duties with a hydrol- ogy emphasis are required to have only 15 hours of core hydrology augmented with 6 semester hours of meteorology (NWS, 1996a). Because of the complexity of hydrologic science and operations in today's modernized weather service, many field office personnel feel strongly that all hydrologist and hydrology-emphasis positions should require a degree directly relevant to hydrology. Conclusion. The committee concludes that NWS forecast- ers with a degree or extensive formal education in meteorol- ogy but no comparable training in hydrology usually are not qualified for hydrologist positions. A more substantial edu- cational background in hydrology is necessary for personnel working in such positions.

OCR for page 34
38 ASSESSMENT OF HYDROLOGIC AND HYDROMETEOROLOGICAL OPERATIONS AND SERVICES Recommendation 4-11. The NWS should review and, if warranted, modify its qualification standards for hydrology positions. The NWS should require a degree or extensive formal education in hydrology for positions that involve a hydrology emphasis. Staffing Overall, the NWS has done a thorough and exemplary job of defining the requirements and planning the staffing needed in the modernized hydrology and hydrometeorology func- tions of the NWS. There are two exceptions. First, service hydrologists will manage the hydrology programs at all fu- ture WFOs; however, only 80 of the planned 119 WFOs will have a service hydrologist assigned on station. Various workload factors such as the frequency of flash floods, prox- imity to other WFOs, number of RFC service locations, num- ber of communities with flood problems, training of hydro- meteorologists, etc., were used to determine which WFOs would be assigned a full-time service hydrologist. Conclusion. The committee remains concerned about the vital and increasingly important role that the service hydrolo- gist will play in the modernized NWS. It is possible that most, if not all, WFOs may require a service hydrologist on station. Second, at offices where operational tests and evalu- ations are conducted, additional hydrologic expertise may be needed to ensure a thorough, effective test of the new systems and techniques. Recommendation 4-12. The NWS should continue to re- view and adjust hydrology staffing to meet specific opera- tional needs as the modernization progresses. TRAINING Anticipating that the new technologies and scientific ad- vances associated with the modernization would require a massive restructuring of its training methods and courses, the NWS developed a comprehensive master training plan for the hydrometeorological service organizations for the 1990s (NWS, 1996a). An outline of this plan for hydrology and hydrometeorology training is presented in Table 4-1. The table lists the basic education courses and their contents; most courses are required of entry-level hydrologists at RFCs and WFOs. The list also includes a mix of correspondence courses, distance learning modules, and training on new sys- tems as they are implemented at weather offices. The plan requires RFC and WFO personnel to take a va- riety of hydrology and hydrometeorology training courses and modules. The Basic Operational Hydrology (B OH) course, which is offered at the National Weather Service Training Center (NWSTC) in Kansas City, Missouri, con- sists of 104 classroom hours and is intended mainly for hy- drology interns and hydrologists who are new to the NWS. The principal focus of BOH is on operational and procedural topics. It provides an overview of hydrometeorology networks and sensors, data quality control, operational river forecast- ing, snow modeling, unit hydrograph theory, and basic top- ics in heavy precipitation and flash flooding. At the NWSTC, the existing Flash Flood Course has been revised to include considerably more material on the mod- ernized flash flood guidance and the WHFSs. The new course, entitled "WFO Operational Hydrometeorology Fore- castin~." teaches AWIPS-era hydrometeorology to meteo- rologists. This course chiefly provides practical training on the WHFS for meteorological forecasters who will use this system to Generate flood warnings and advisories. Service hydrologist personnel will also complete this course. The Cooperative Program for Operational Meteorology, Education, and Training (COMET) (conducted by the Uni- versity Center for Atmospheric Research) and its component modules are also available to NWS personnel. The COMET course is taught over three weeks and offers basic training in the hydrologic sciences. It is specifically designed for hy- drometeorological analysis and support forecasters, but other RFC forecasters may also enroll. The COMET provides training on basic hydrometeorological theory, with a focus on meteorological and hydrometeorological conditions im- portant to hydrologic forecasts. The course is also designed to enable WFO science operations officers and service hy- drology personnel to couple the hydrologic and meteorologi- cal functions at the WFO effectively. NWS personnel working on hydrologic operations have also relied on correspondence courses; nearly 55 percent have taken at least one correspondence course in a hydrology- related discipline. However, these courses are of varying quality, and the material is often dated or not relevant to the operational duties of NWS personnel. Other sources of specialized training exist for various hydrology and hydrometeorology positions in the NWS. Development and operations hydrologist personnel receive training at the Hydrology Research Laboratory, and work- shops are organized occasionally to meet other needs. NEXRAD, Automated Surface Observing System User, and RFC Gateway courses are available to RFC forecasters. In addition, AWIPS User Training, Computer Operations and Systems Training, the COMET Field Office Managers' Course, and Hydrologic and Climatological Networks courses satisfy additional specialized training needs. Conclusion. After reviewing the training plan and course contents in light of the operational duties and responsibili- ties of hydrologists and hydrometeorologists, and based on the reactions of NWS personnel to their participation in vari- ous courses and training programs (see the appendix), the committee concludes that new, specialized hydrology train- ing modules are necessary to prepare hydrologic forecasters for their new and complex duties and to fulfill the potential of the modernization. The committee also notes that technical materials in the NWSTC BOH course, applicable U.S. Department of

OCR for page 34
MANAGEMENT AND OPERATIONAL SUPPORT TABLE 4-1 Summary of Basic Training Courses Available for the Modernized Hydrology Program University Education College and/or university courses necessary to meet the Hydrometeorologist Qualification Standard (i.e., qualify as Type A or Type B hydrometeorologist) and to advance to higher positions in the NWS hydrology program. WSR-88D Operations Course Theory of Doppler weather radar technology operational use of WSR-88D products. ~ , ~ Automated Surface Observing System Training Operational use of Automated Surface Observing System training data AWIPS User Training Operational use of AWIPS. AWIPS Systems Training Systems, software, and database features of AWIPS. RFC-Unique Systems Training Operational use of Gateway II computer systems. Computer Operations and Systems Training NWS-identified courses and manuals on programming languages, operating systems, telecommunications packages, and applications procedure design. Specialized Development and Operations Hydrologist Training Annual one-week workshop at Office of Hydrology covering advanced hydrology and hydrometeorology applications. NWS Basic Operational Hydrology Course National Weather Service Training Center Overview of hydrometeorological networks and sensors; introduction to hydrologic modeling principles including river and reservoir routing, snowpack modeling, and model calibration; and overview of administrative reports and forms used for the NWS hydrology program. COMET Hydrometeorology Course Operational application of advanced hydrometeorological networks and sensors; introduction to hydrologic modeling principles including river and reservoir routing, snowpack modeling, and model calibration; and overview of administrative reports and fonns used for the NWS hydrology program. NWS WFO Operational Hydrometeorological Forecasting Course National Weather Service Training Center Operational application WFO hydrometeorological AWIPS forecasting techniques. Advanced Hydrology and Hydrometeorology Workshops Background and theory of hydrometeorological analysis techniques, hydrologic modeling systems, model calibration, interactive hydrologic forecasting, and operational applications. Meteorological Training for Hydrologic Forecasters Training in the basic principles of meteorology. Tended for individuals with hydrology backgrounds. Hydrologic Training for Meteorologists Distance leaning module in basic science of hydrology. Intended for individuals with meteorology backgrounds. Hydrologic Services (Correspondence) Course II History and current policies of the NWS hydrologic services program. Hydrologic and Climatologic Networks Training Distance learning modules providing knowledge on hydrologic and climatologic networks. Field Office Managers Course National Weather Service Training Center Management and administrative responsibilities of meteorologists-in-charge and hydrologists-in-charge in the modernized NWS. 39

OCR for page 34
40 ASSESSMENT OF HYDROLOGIC AND HYDROMETEOROLOGICAL OPERATIONS AND SERVICES Agriculture correspondence courses, and COMET modules are far behind the development and implementation of new tools and techniques in the RFCs and WFOs. The committee agrees with the NWS that service hydrologists are central to effective hydrologic operations in the modernized NWS in- sofar as WFO meteorological forecasters do not have the experience base or the educational foundation to deal with hydrographs in complex watersheds especially those con- taining water control structures (such as dams). Conclusion. Although the new WFO Operational Hydro- meteorology Forecasting course may be adequate for WFO meteorological forecasters, it does not adequately meet the needs of service hydrologists, who also serve as the scien- tific liaisons for WFO hydrology. Recommendation 4-13. The NWS should develop new, spe- cialized hydrology training modules for RFC staff and WFO service hydrologists that are compatible with the new mod- els and procedures in the interactive hydrologic forecast en- vironment. This training should include new quantitative forecast techniques and the use of distributed observations from a variety of new sensors and sources.