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--> 4 Review Of The National Weather Service Proposal Since FY 94, the NWS has proposed modernizing the National Cooperative Observer Program as part of NOAA's annual initiative (NOAA, 1993). Although NOAA has been supportive of modernizing the network, the U.S. Department of Commerce has decided not to carry the initiative forward. The panel agrees with the objective and goals of NWS's modernization plan for the Coop Network (see Box 4-1). The NWS envisions a mostly automated network that eliminates paper forms and hard copy. Only snowfall and snow depth observations will be made manually, with reporting by observers via interactive data terminals. Temperature and precipitation measurements will be automated and recorded via data loggers. All three types of observations will be transmitted electronically to WFOs and thence into AWIPS before being transmitted to NCDC. Figure 4-1 shows the NWS's conceptual design. The panel has noted that the NWS's conceptual coop system design envisions a paperless system. In this system, both automated and manual observations would be entered into an interactive electronic data terminal. The terminal would have software that displays an electronic B-91 form that could be filled out automatically by automated sensors and BOX 4-1 NOAA's Coop Network Modernization Plan The objective of this program is to further NOAA's mission by developing a low-cost, standardized climate/weather observing system that supports federal multi-agency requirements and is implemented in the Cooperative Observer Network to meet the needs of NOAA and all other climate/weather data users. The standardization of observation techniques and the improved compatibility of interagency data would benefit taxpayers in the long run. The goals of the modernized Cooperative Observer Program are listed below: Prevent further degradation of the climate database and thereby allow for more timely, reliable assessments of long-term climate conditions and climate changes. Standardize observation times. Reduce the amount of missing/erroneous data due to human factors. Standardize observing biases. Improve quality control of data. Develop nationally standardized observation methodologies for automated surface climate observations. Develop specifications for a low-cost, standardized, accurate, and reliable weather/climate observation system that provides higher quality data in a more timely and efficient manner than the current system. Disseminate daily temperature, rainfall, snowfall, and snow depth observations at least on a daily basis to support all climate/weather data users (including NWS hydrologists and meteorologists). Publish monthly data no more than two months after the end of the calendar month being processed. Source: NOAA, 1993.
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--> Figure 4-1 NWS's conceptual design for the modernized Cooperative Observer Network. Source: National Weather Service
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--> could also accommodate manual observations (such as snowfall or snow depth), which could be entered by key stroke. In any case, the data (both manually and automatically entered) would be stored digitally, and periodically transmitted electronically to the NWS and NCDC, probably daily and monthly. Backup data could be mailed (e.g., on diskette) if the electronic transmission failed for some reason. The panel advocates a gradual approach to automation with an emphasis on preserving the continuity of the record, obtaining data faster, and solving the mechanical problems with hourly precipitation gauges. The panel has reviewed the NWS plan in detail and finds that it is fundamentally sound from a technical standpoint (see Appendix G). The panel's comments on equipment and automation are listed below: Thermometers. The maximum/minimum temperature sensor thermistor and readout equipment are rapidly becoming obsolete and do not have the capability of storing data. There are no funds to test and procure replacements. A return to the liquid-in-glass and cotton region shelter configuration is not feasible because of high cost and observer preference for the indoor remote readout. Therefore, a new temperature measuring system will have to be tested, procured, and installed at Coop stations. The consistency of temperature measurements across all NOAA networks (e.g., ASOS and the Coop Network) should be a serious consideration. The new thermometer systems should feed into data collection and communications equipment, as well as having manual readout capability. Modernization cost: about 5,000 new temperature systems. Hourly Precipitation. The Belfort (Fischer and Porter) rain gauge punched paper tape technology is obsolete, and the equipment to read the tapes is no longer manufactured, placing data from nearly 2,700 stations at risk. In addition, the pen-and-ink trace universal rain gauge technology is obsolete and labor intensive and should be automated. The new precipitation gauge systems should feed into data collection and communications equipment, as well as having manual readout capability. Modernization cost: about 3,000 hourly precipitation gauges. Automated Data Collection. Automated data collection is necessary to solve the problems of recruiting and retaining observers at a given location for the decades necessary to monitor climate conditions and climatic change. Automated data collection is not a requirement for all stations, but it is essential for the 3,300 stations in the network that directly support NWS operations. It is also not a comprehensive solution, because today's precipitation gauge technology does not permit complete automation. Modernization cost: about 3,300 automated data collection computers. Automated Communication of Data. The communication of data to NWS and NCDC should be automated for two important reasons: (1) communications is a burden on volunteer observers that could be eased via modem technology. This would also make it easier to recruit and retain observers; (2) automated data communication would speed the delivery of usable digital data to the user community. Modernization cost: about 5,000 data communications systems. Conclusion. The panel endorses the overall technical approach proposed in the NWS plan. If implemented, the plan would provide important elements of a modernized Cooperative Observer Network.
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