Toward a New National Weather Service

Future of the National Weather Service Cooperative Observer Network

National Weather Service Modernization Committee

Commission on Engineering and Technical Systems

National Research Council

NATIONAL ACADEMY PRESS
Washington, D.C.
1998



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--> Toward a New National Weather Service Future of the National Weather Service Cooperative Observer Network National Weather Service Modernization Committee Commission on Engineering and Technical Systems National Research Council NATIONAL ACADEMY PRESS Washington, D.C. 1998

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--> NATIONAL ACADEMY PRESS 2101 Constitution Avenue, N.W. Washington, D.C. 20418 NOTICE: The project that is the subject of this report was approved by the Governing Board of the National Research Council, whose members are drawn from the councils of the National Academy of Sciences, the National Academy of Engineering, and the Institute of Medicine. The members of the committee responsible for the report were chosen for their special competences and with regard for appropriate balance. This report has been reviewed by a group other than the authors according to procedures approved by a Report Review Committee consisting of members of the National Academy of Sciences, the National Academy of Engineering, and the Institute of Medicine. The National Academy of Sciences is a private, nonprofit, self-perpetuating society of distinguished scholars engaged in scientific and engineering research, dedicated to the furtherance of science and technology and to their use for the general welfare. Upon the authority of the charter granted to it by the Congress in 1863, the Academy has a mandate that requires it to advise the federal government on scientific and technical matters. Dr. Bruce M. Alberts is president of the National Academy of Sciences. The National Academy of Engineering was established in 1964, under the charter of the National Academy of Sciences, as a parallel organization of outstanding engineers. It is autonomous in its administration and in the selection of its members, sharing with the National Academy of Sciences the responsibility for advising the federal government. The National Academy of Engineering also sponsors engineering programs aimed at meeting national needs, encourages education and research, and recognizes the superior achievements of engineers. Dr. William A. Wulf is president of the National Academy of Engineering. The Institute of Medicine was established in 1970 by the National Academy of Sciences to secure the services of eminent members of appropriate professions in the examination of policy matters pertaining to the health of the public. The Institute acts under the responsibility given to the National Academy of Sciences by its congressional charter to be an adviser to the federal government and, upon its own initiative, to identify issues of medical care, research, and education. Dr. Kenneth I. Shine is president of the Institute of Medicine. The National Research Council was organized by the National Academy of Sciences in 1916 to associate the broad community of science and technology with the Academy’s purposes of furthering knowledge and advising the federal government. Functioning in accordance with general policies determined by the Academy, the Council has become the principal operating agency of both the National Academy of Sciences and the National Academy of Engineering in providing services to the government, the public, and the scientific and engineering communities. The Council is administered jointly by both Academies and the Institute of Medicine. Dr. Bruce M. Alberts and Dr. William A. Wulf are chairman and vice chairman, respectively, of the National Research Council. This study was supported by Contract/Grant No. 50-DGNW-5-00004 between the National Academy of Sciences and the U.S. Department of Commerce, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. Any opinions, findings, conclusions, or recommendations expressed in this publication are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the views of the organizations or agencies that provided support for the project. Available in limited supply from: Transition Program Office, National Weather Service, NOAA, 1325 East West Highway, Silver Spring, MD 20910; (301) 713-1090. Additional copies of this report are available from National Academy Press, 2101 Constitution Avenue, N.W., Lockbox 285, Washington, D.C. 20055; (800) 624-6242 or (202) 334-3313 (in the Washington metropolitan area); Internet, http://www.nap.edu Library of Congress Catalog Card Number 98-86724 International Standard Book Number 0-309-06146-6 Printed in the United States of America Copyright 1998 by the National Academy of Sciences. All rights reserved.

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--> PANEL ON CLIMATE RECORD: MODERNIZATION OF THE COOPERATIVE OBSERVER NETWORK WILLIAM D. BONNER (chair), National Center for Atmospheric Research, Boulder, Colorado STANLEY A. CHANGNON, Illinois State Water Survey, Champaign KENNETH C. CRAWFORD, Oklahoma Climatological Survey, Norman NOLAN J. DOESKEN, Colorado State University, Fort Collins THOMAS W. HORST, National Center for Atmospheric Research, Boulder, Colorado ROY L. JENNE, National Center for Atmospheric Research, Boulder, Colorado VERONICA F. NIEVA, WESTAT, Inc., Rockville, Maryland DAVID A. ROBINSON, Rutgers University, New Brunswick, New Jersey Advisors CHARLES L. HOSLER, NAE, Pennsylvania State University, University Park THOMAS B. MCKEE, Colorado State University, Fort Collins Staff FLOYD F. HAUTH, study director MERCEDES M. ILAGAN, study associate CARTER W. FORD, project assistant COURTLAND S. LEWIS, technical writer

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--> NATIONAL WEATHER SERVICE MODERNIZATION COMMITTEE RICHARD A. ANTHES (chair), University Corporation for Atmospheric Research, Boulder, Colorado WILLIAM E. GORDON (vice chair), NAE, NAS, Rice University (retired), Houston, Texas DAVID ATLAS, NAE, Atlas Concepts, Bethesda, Maryland WILLIAM D. BONNER, National Center for Atmospheric Research, Boulder, Colorado ROBERT BRAMMER, TASC, Reading, Massachusetts KENNETH C. CRAWFORD, Oklahoma Climatological Survey, Norman DARA ENTEKHABI, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Cambridge GEORGE J. GLEGHORN, NAE, TRW Space and Technology Group (retired), Rancho Palos Verdes, California ALBERT J. KAEHN, JR. U.S. Air Force (retired), Burke, Virginia JENANNE L. MURPHY, Hughes Information Technology Corporation, Vienna, Virginia VERONICA F. NIEVA, WESTAT, Inc., Rockville, Maryland DOROTHY C. PERKINS, National Aeronautics and Space Administration, Greenbelt, Maryland PAUL L. SMITH, South Dakota School of Mines and Technology, Rapid City Technical Advisors CHARLES L. HOSLER, NAE, Pennsylvania State University, University Park DAVID S. JOHNSON, National Research Council (retired), Annapolis, Maryland ROBERT J. SERAFIN, NAE, National Center for Atmospheric Research, Boulder, Colorado ARTHUR I. ZYGIELBAUM, University of Nebraska, Lincoln Staff FLOYD F. HAUTH, study director MERCEDES M. ILAGAN, study associate CARTER W. FORD, project assistant

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--> Preface As part of its continuing review and evaluation of National Weather Service (NWS) operations and plans, the National Research Council, through its National Weather Service Modernization Committee (NWSMC), has monitored developments in weather observing systems since 1990. In earlier reports, the NWSMC has commented on the Cooperative Observer Network (Coop Network) and its relationship to the climate record. The NWSMC was informed by users of weather observations that they depend on accurate, reliable data from the Coop Network. The Association of State Climatologists, representatives of regional climate centers, universities, and other groups that use weather and climate data have contacted the NWSMC and provided briefings in recent years on growing problems and issues related to the network. Users of the network's observations are deeply concerned that little attention has been paid to this important source of data as the NWS modernization has proceeded and that network capability has deteriorated. In a recent report on NWS hydrologic operations and services, the NWSMC recommended that "NOAA [the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration] should review the status of the cooperative observer network and plan for its future in the context of the ongoing modernization." Accordingly, in October 1996 the NWSMC proposed a study of the status and outlook for the Coop Network. The NRC subsequently authorized the study and approved a Panel on Climate Record: Modernization of the Cooperative Observer Network (the Coop Panel). The panel consisted of several members of the NWSMC and other experts with relevant experience in NWS operations, cooperative observing, and private industry. The panel undertook the following tasks: to assess the applications of Coop Network data (see Chapter 1) to assess the continuation of the Coop Network (see Chapter 2) to assess the NWS plans to modernize the network, including the impact of interagency data requirements on NOAA's program responsibility (see Chapter 4) to identify alternative approaches for improving the effectiveness and efficiency of the network through new technology or new organizational structures associated with NWS modernization (see Chapter 3) To gather information, the Coop Panel met three times with representatives of NOAA, the NWS, and the National Climatic Data Center (NCDC, a unit of the National Environmental Satellite, Data, and Information Service). The panel also met with representatives of the U.S. Department of Agriculture, the U.S. Department of the Interior, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, and other providers and users of climate record data. The panel relied heavily on internal NWS documents, interviews, correspondence with NWS and NCDC employees, and information from state climatologists. The panel conducted its analyses and reviews in the broad context of the NWS modernization and global climate change, identifying emerging needs and applications of Coop Network data. The panel visited NCDC and an NWS weather forecast office and interviewed staff members involved with support activities at various levels of the NWS/NCDC organizational structure. Information-gathering covered everything from data collection and site maintenance to quality control, data analysis, data archiving, forecasting, publication and dissemination of products, and interaction with both cooperative observers and users. A questionnaire about the uses and value of cooperative weather data (see Appendix A) was distributed by the American Association of State Climatologists to its members, and the responses (60 percent of 48 surveys) were provided to the panel. The panel then reviewed the information that had been gathered and analyzed it in the context of the NWS modernization. The NWSMC reviewed the findings, conclusions,

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--> and recommendations of the panel. Finally, the panel presented its analyses, conclusions, and recommendations in this report. This study could not have been conducted without the full and willing participation of many NCDC and NWS staff members, in particular Messrs. Phillip Clark, John Jensen, Robert Leffler, and Andrew Horvitz. I would like to thank the members of the Coop Panel for the very considerable effort they devoted to this study, including visiting facilities, conducting interviews, and drafting the report. On behalf of the panel and the committee, I wish to express our appreciation to Mr. Floyd Hauth, study director, and Mrs. Mercedes Ilagan, study associate, for their expert organizational and logistical support. Finally, I would like to thank consultant Courtland Lewis for his assistance in the preparation of this report. WILLIAM D. BONNER, CHAIR PANEL ON CLIMATE RECORD: MODERNIZATION OF THE COOPERTAIVE OBSERVER NETWORK

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--> Acknowledgments This report has been reviewed by individuals chosen for their diverse perspectives and technical expertise, in accordance with procedures approved by the National Research Council's (NRC's) Report Review Committee. The purpose of this independent review is to provide candid and critical comments that will assist the authors and the NRC in making the published report as sound as possible and to ensure that the report meets institutional standards for objectivity, evidence, and responsiveness to the study charge. The contents of the review comments and draft manuscript remain confidential to protect the integrity of the deliberative process. We wish to thank the following individuals for their participation in the review of this report: William Bland, University of Wisconsin-Madison Allan Dutcher, University of Nebraska-Lincoln Roger Getz, AWLS, Inc., Auburn, Alabama Robert Landis, World Meteorological Organization, Geneva, Switzerland, Robert Quayle, National Climatic Data Center, Asheville, North Carolina Kelly Redmond, Western Regional Climate Center, Reno, Nevada Steven Steinke, Scottsdale, Arizona James Wirshborn, Mountain States Weather Services, Fort Collins, Colorado Although the individuals listed above have provided many constructive comments and suggestions, responsibility for the final content of this report rests solely with the authoring committees and the NRC.

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--> Contents     Executive Summary   1 1   Overview   5     Definition,   5     Operational Context,   8 2   Operation and Management   12     Network Management,   12     Technical and Operational Issues,   12     Management Issues,   23     System Issues,   27 3   Cooperative Network of the Future   32     Importance of Consistency For Coop Network Data,   32     Specifications and Characteristics,   33     Blueprint For Upgrading the Coop Network,   37     Modernizing the Program Management Structure,   39     Funding Support,   41     New Vision and Mission,   42 4   Review of the National Weather Service Proposal   43     References   46     Acronyms   47     Appendices         A Survey of State Climatologists On the National Weather Service Cooperative Network   51     B Applications/Uses of Weather and Climate Data   54     C Cooperative Observer Systems in Other Countries   59     D Summary of the Canadian Network Rationalization Plan   60     E Recommendations from the National Weather Service Modernization Committee's 1992 Report   61     F Guidelines and Principles For Climate Monitoring   63     G National Weather Service Plan For Modernizing the Cooperative Observer Network and Technical Specifications   64

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--> Figures, Tables, and Boxes Figures 1-1   Types of Cooperative Observer Network stations,   8 1-2   Coop observer site location map and list of stations and equipment, by state,   9 2-1   Coop Program management structure,   13 2-2   Example of the effects of timeshifting,   15 2-3   Sample form for manual entry of weather observations,   16 2-4   Decline in the number of coop stations since 1970,   17 2-5   Site stability of coop stations,   17 2-6   Cooperative data flow,   18 2-7   Estimated bias introduced by new temperature sensors,   21 2-8   Major datasets purchased by NCDC customers,   22 2-9   NCDC orders by major media type,   23 2-10   NWS's vision of end-to-end integrated forecasts,   23 2-11   Cooperative observing sites per WFO,   25 2-12   Area of responsibility for each NWS WFO,   26 2-13   Oklahoma Mesonet station configuration,   29 2-14   NOAA National Weather System high-level component system view,   30 4-1   NWS's conceptual design for the modernized Cooperative Observer Network,   44 Tables 2-1   Comparison of Automated Coop Observations with Manual Observations,   20 2-2   Changes in Coop Program Operations,   24 2-3   Coop Program Costs and Reimbursements for FY 1996,   27 Boxes 1-1   Historical Roots of the Cooperative Observer Network,   6 1-2   Climate Data Suggest Global Warming,   6 1-3   Historical Climate Network,   7 1-4   Coop Data: The Star Witness!,   7 2-1   Exposure of Temperature Instruments,   14 2-2   The Problem of Timeshifting,   14 2-3   The National Centers for Environmental Prediction,   19 2-4   The Cost of an Error,   21 2-5   Olympic Weather Watch,   28 2-6   The Oklahoma Mesonet,   28 4-1   NOAA's Coop Network Modernization Plan,   43

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