A VISION FOR THE NATIONAL WEATHER SERVICE

ROAD MAP FOR THE FUTURE

Panel on the Road Map for the Future National Weather Service

National Weather Service Modernization Committee

Commission on Engineering and Technical Systems

National Research Council


NATIONAL ACADEMY PRESS
WASHINGTON, D.C.
1999



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--> A VISION FOR THE NATIONAL WEATHER SERVICE ROAD MAP FOR THE FUTURE Panel on the Road Map for the Future National Weather Service National Weather Service Modernization Committee Commission on Engineering and Technical Systems National Research Council NATIONAL ACADEMY PRESS WASHINGTON, D.C. 1999

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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 International Standard Book Number 0-309-06379-5  Library of Congress Catalog Card Number 99-60166  Printed in the United States of America Copyright 1999 by the National Academy of Sciences. All rights reserved Cover photographs: The center image, a GOES-8 full Earth view of Hurricane Mitch (1445 UTC), October 26, 1998, was provided by the National Climatic Data Center, Satellite Resources Branch, NOAA, Asheville, North Carolina. The seven smaller images are part of a color slide collection provided by the National Center for Atmospheric Research, Boulder, Colorado. Clockwise from bottom left: simulated thunderstorm; tornado over Stapleton Airport, Denver, Colorado; simulated airflow pattern over terrain; solar plasma exploding; lightning; aurora borealis; and results of a blizzard.

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

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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 ALBERT J. KAEHN, JR. U.S. Air Force (retired), Burke, 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 ARTHUR I. ZYGIELBAUM, University of Nebraska, Lincoln Technical Advisors GEORGE J. GLEGHORN, NAE, TRW Space and Technology Group (retired), Rancho Palos Verdes, California CHARLES L. HOSLER, NAE, Pennsylvania State University, University Park DAVID S. JOHNSON, National Research Council (retired), Annapolis, Maryland JENANNE L. MURPHY, Hughes Information Technology Corporation, Reston, Virginia ROBERT J. SERAFIN, NAE, National Center for Atmospheric Research, Boulder, Colorado Staff FLOYD F. HAUTH, study director MERCEDES ILAGAN, study associate CARTER FORD, project assistant ROBERT KATT, consultant

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--> PREFACE In 1990, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) asked the National Research Council to provide oversight and review for the modernization and restructuring of the National Weather Service (NWS). In response, the National Research Council established the National Weather Service Modernization Committee (NWSMC). This report is the last major review, under the auspices of the committee, of what has been achieved, with an additional focus on what lies ahead for the NWS, now that the modernization and restructuring is nearing completion. In the most recent formal statement from NOAA of subjects the NWSMC should explore, the need for a long-term look at the future was expressed in these words: The committee's review will help ensure a continuous modernization to capitalize on the substantial investment already made in new technology, and opportunities available from emerging scientific and technological research and development efforts that will complement and enhance the modernization. Specifically the committee shall investigate the need and opportunities for continuing the modernization of the NWS beyond current plans. This request from NOAA provided the basis for the Statement of Task for the study panel from the Governing Board of the National Research Council (see box). These instructions have guided the panel's efforts. During the past nine years, the committee and its panels have provided advice and guidance to the NWS and NOAA on the development and implementation of each major technical system included in the modernization, as well as a host of issues related to the restructuring of NWS field offices. This report argues for the continued evolution of observational and computational technologies to improve NWS forecasts and warnings and for the NWS to seek new avenues for partnerships with others to provide a range of environmental services. The report is an optimistic view of the advances that could enable the NWS to achieve the committee's vision of weather-related information services in 2025. This optimism depends, of course, on many assumptions, the most important of which are described at the beginning of the report. This report was developed in parallel with another National Research Council report, prepared under the Board on Atmospheric Sciences and Climate and recently released as The Atmospheric Sciences: Entering the Twenty-First Century. Although the two authoring groups worked independently, their reports share a vision of exciting new opportunities in atmospheric science and atmospheric information services. They agree on the main strategies for achieving the resulting benefits for the nation. The present report focuses on the NWS and suggests how the evolution and improvement of its observing and prediction capabilities may evolve Statement of Task The purpose of this study is to provide guidelines for the National Weather Service (NWS) to effectively exploit emerging science and technology, incorporate modernization practices into operations, and continue to improve weather forecasting and related products and services for the nation well into the twenty-first century. The project will result in a report with findings and recommendations on opportunities for the NWS to effectively exploit and incorporate emerging science and technology into routine operations on a continuing basis. In addition to addressing technical issues, the study will suggest criteria to establish priorities for science and technology initiatives that would foster improvements in NWS operations and services.

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--> in the context of the projected advances in science and technology. The panel drew on the scientific and technical expertise of its members, as well as on the experience of the present and past members of the NWSMC. I thank the NWS staff for their many presentations to this panel. I thank the experts in other government agencies, universities, and industry who contributed to this study in many ways. I also wish to express the panel's appreciation to Mr. Floyd F. Hauth, study director, Mrs. Mercedes Ilagan, study associate, and Carter Ford, project assistant, for their expert organizational and logistical support. Finally, I thank consultant Robert Katt for his assistance in preparing the report. WILLIAM E. GORDON, CHAIR PANEL ON THE ROAD MAP FOR THE FUTURE NATIONAL WEATHER SERVICE

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--> ACKNOWLEDGMENTS This report has been reviewed in draft form by individuals chosen for their diverse perspectives and technical expertise, in accordance with procedures approved by the National Research Council's Report Review Committee. The purpose of this independent review is to provide candid and critical comments that will assist the institution 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 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: Raymond J. Ban, The Weather Channel, Atlanta, Georgia John A. Dutton, Pennsylvania State University, University Park Donald R. Johnson, University of Wisconsin, Madison Robert C. Landis, World Meteorological Organization, Geneva, Switzerland Fred P. Lewis, U.S. Air Force, Washington, D.C. Ann Majchrzak, University of Southern California, Los Angeles Clifford Mass, University of Washington, Seattle Ronald D. McPherson, Crofton, Maryland Joanne M. Simpson, Goddard Space Flight Center, NASA, Greenbelt, Maryland Robert M. White, Washington Advisory Group, Washington, D.C. While the individuals listed above have provided constructive comments and suggestions, it must be emphasized that responsibility for the final content of this report rests entirely with the authoring committee and the institution.

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--> CONTENTS EXECUTIVE SUMMARY   1 I WHERE ARE WE GOING?         Prologue: A Boston Christmas Carol, 2025   7     Weather Services In 2025   9 II HOW WILL WE GET THERE?     1   Guideposts for the Road Ahead   17     Assumptions   18 2   Science and Technology   20     Observational Science and Technology   20     Numerical Modeling and Data Assimilation   29     Space Weather   37     Advanced Forecasting Techniques   39     Implications for the National Weather Service   42 3   Providing Weather and Environmental Information Services   46     Customers and Providers of Weather Information   46     Weather Information in an Information Economy   47     Present and Future Roles of Information Providers   49     Implications for the National Weather Service   55 4   Education and Training   58     Changing Role of Forecasters   58     Technical Support Staff   58     Career Progression   59     Educational and Training Curricula   59     Programs   59     Educating Users of Weather Information   60     Implications for the National Weather Service   60

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--> 5   Road Map for the Future   62     Realizing Benefits to the Nation   62     Applying Enabling Science and Technologies   62     Merging Weather Information Services into Environmental Information Services   64     Organizational Issues   64     Setting Priorities for Science and Technology Initiatives   66 REFERENCES   67 ACRONYMS   70 GLOSSARY   71 BIOGRAPHICAL SKETCHES OF PANEL MEMBERS AND ADVISORS   74

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--> FIGURES, TABLES, AND BOXES Figures 2-1   The variation since 1954 at NCEP in the skill score of 36-hour forecasts for the 500-mb geopotential height field over North America   31 2-2   The variation since 1949 at NCEP in the skill score of 36-hour forecasts for the sea-level pressure field over North America   32 2-3   Anomaly (variation from seasonal climatic norm) of the height correlation for 500-mb forecasts   32 2-4   Skill in forecasting precipitation amounts over the United States one day in advance   33 2-5   Trend in total system computational performance   36 2-6   Using rule-based logic to develop specialized forecasts   40 Tables 2-1   Earth Observing System Measurements   28 2-2   Examples of Current Numerical Models   35 2-3   Supercomputing Capabilities at Operational Weather Prediction Centers, March 1998   44 Boxes 1-1   Mission of the National Weather Service   18 2-1   Forecast Accuracy and Skill   21 2-2   Beyond NEXRAD   25 2-3   Storm of the Century   34 2-4   Available Computer Power   35 2-5   Relationship between Model Resolution and Computer Power   38 3-1   Progress in Science and Technology   50 3-2   Economic Value of Environmental Information   51 3-3   Government Policies and Budgets   52 3-4   International Cooperation   52 3-5   NWS Information Channels   53 3-6   Weather Support Offices for the Olympic Games   56 3-7   Current National Weather Service Users   57 4-1   National Disaster Education Coalition   61 5-1   Criteria for Selecting Science and Technology Initiatives   65

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