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OCR for page 41
5 Epilogue: An Overall Assessment This committee was asked to examine the adequacy of the NWS plans and progress toward the improvement of hydrologic and hydrometeorological products and services, to assess the effectiveness of the NWS in the use of new technology and science to achieve those improvements, and to identify additional steps necessary to realize the full prom- ise that the modernization of hydrologic and hydrometeoro- logical operations and services offers for the nation. The committee has identified many areas where improvements are needed in the interaction between RFCs (River Fore- cast Centers) and WFOs (Weather Forecast Offices), in the further integration of hydrology and hydrometeorology, in staffing levels in some functions, in research planning and operational test and evaluation, in communication with field office staff regarding important aspects of the moderniza- tion, and in other areas. The report has presented specific recommendations for changes in these areas. Nevertheless, the committee's overall impression is posi- tive. Modernization plans for the NWS hydrology program are incorporating recent technological advances into field offices and thereby producing a major beneficial effect on the spirit and outlook of NWS personnel. In visits to various NWS offices and in meetings with field personnel at all ech- elons, the committee found sincere enthusiasm. NWS staff members at all levels are truly excited about using new tools and techniques to deliver improved products and services to users. Enabling such a highly motivated workforce by pro- viding them with the needed equipment and support clearly is in the public interest; it is an opportunity that should not be lost. The new technological advances that have been and are being incorporated into the hydrologic and hydrometeoro- logical operations of the NWS provide a capability to make detailed characterizations of precipitation fields, which are among the key factors needed to produce better-quality river 41 and runoff forecasts. The NEXRAD network, coupled with Automated Surface Observing System and advanced com- munication links to other real-time sources of surface- and satellite-based estimates of rain and snow amounts, provides data of an unprecedented quality for hydrologic operations. Powerful computational machines will provide advanced capabilities to process the precipitation data, and thereby al- low forecasts of runoff and the route of the flood wave through drainage networks to be generated in time for effec- tive communication to the public. The new computation and communication technologies allow the introduction of inter- active forecast environments that enable forecasters to use the models effectively to develop and disseminate hydro- logic products and services. The NWS hydrology program has taken a leadership role in supporting the implementation and use of the new obser- vation networks and in developing state-of-the-art interac- tive forecast systems. Most of the advances just described are contingent on the full national implementation of the AWIPS (Advanced Weather Interactive Processing System). To that end, the Office of Hydrology has led in implement- ing extensive and aggressive pre-AWIPS and AWIPS devel- opment efforts. NWS field personnel are eager to access these tools and observations to improve services to their user communities. These findings are encouraging. They bode well for the eventual outcome of the modernization of NWS hydrology and hydrometeorology operations and services. To be sure, there are barriers that must be overcome financial, techno- logical, operational, and organizational. But such barriers are virtually universal in contemporary large-scale, high- technology endeavors, whether in the government or the pri- vate sector. The committee is confident that if the changes recommended in this report are made, the outlook for achiev- ing the goals of the modernization will be highly favorable.