PART II
HOW WILL WE GET THERE?



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--> PART II HOW WILL WE GET THERE?

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--> 1 Guideposts for the Road Ahead In the twentieth century, a brief interval in human history, science and technology have made possible the automobile, air travel, space exploration, radio, television, nuclear energy, the transistor, integrated circuits, computers, three-dimensional medical imagers, GPS, lasers, fiber-optic communications, noninvasive surgery, the Internet, and satellite communications. Modern meteorology began early in the twentieth century, when Cleveland Abbe in the United States and Wilhelm Bjerknes in Norway suggested independently that weather forecasting could and should become a mathematical science. Their vision, however, only began to be realized with the development of practical observing systems. The invention of the radiosonde (a balloon-borne instrument that measures air temperature, atmospheric pressure, and humidity) in the 1920s provided one of the first observing systems that moved meteorology toward an exact science. Meteorology has also benefited enormously from the invention of radar and has taken advantage of satellites in space for continuous observations of the Earth and its atmosphere. With advances in computing, more accurate and reliable NWP (numerical weather prediction) models, with finer and finer resolution, came to be used operationally. From the Second World War through the 1980s, meteorological and hydrologic science and technology made unprecedented progress. Building upon this solid scientific and technological foundation, the NWS began a major modernization and restructuring in 1989. The modernization was an ambitious and bold program to replace aging equipment, implement new science and technology, and restructure the organization of NWS field offices and national centers. Interactions with universities were strengthened by locating some field offices on university campuses and by the Cooperative Program for Operational Meteorology, Education and Training (COMET) (Spangler et al., 1994). The intellectual resources of the NWS were also strengthened through a change in the mix of staff, so that by 1998 about two-thirds of the staff were professional meteorologists. The introduction of two new positions in field offices, the science operations officer and the development and operations hydrologist, has brought new pride and vision to NWS staff while expanding the scope of staff activities. The formal phases of this modernization and restructuring are about to be completed. By 2000, all new equipment will be installed, all field offices staffed, and the forecasting and warning operations modernized throughout the NWS. The National Weather Service Modernization Committee of the National Research Council, which has observed, reviewed, commented on, and provided advice regarding the modernization and restructuring for the past eight years, will complete its work in 1999. The committee has examined virtually all facets of the NWS, including satellites, radars and radar coverage, surface observing systems, services, modeling advances, staff views and concerns, and interactive processing. It is appropriate, therefore, that the Road Map Panel of the committee, which comprises many current and former committee members, provide a vision for the NWS in 2025. The panel has made a bold attempt to discern directions that the NWS should pursue over the next quarter century. Shorter-range objectives are being addressed by several other mechanisms, including the NWS strategic planning process, the study of technology infusion, and related NWS advisory committees. The primary tasks to pursue in the next few years are to consolidate the advances in technology provided by the modernization and restructuring, exploit the parallel scientific progress, and bring the technology and science together in the operational domain. However, because technological change is an ongoing process that appears likely to accelerate, the NWS should also look beyond the next few years. In this report, the panel presents probable trends, opportunities, and scenarios. Some aspects of the panel's vision may be overly ambitious or optimistic. Some aspects may not be attained for technical, budgetary, or other reasons (NRC, 1998e). Nevertheless, the vision as a whole provides long-term goals worth pursuing

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--> BOX 1-1 Mission of the National Weather Service The National Weather Service provides weather, hydrologic, and climate forecasts and warnings for the United States, its territories, adjacent waters and ocean areas, for the protection of life and property and the enhancement of the national economy. NWS data and products form a national information database and infrastructure which can be used by other governmental agencies, the private sector, the public, and the global community. Source: Jones, 1998 and delineates boundaries that NWS and NOAA decision-makers can apply to their strategic planning for the future. Assumptions Within this general philosophical framework, the panel proceeded on the basis of seven assumptions, which are listed below with brief explanations. 1.   The broad NWS mission will be largely unchanged (see Box 1-1). Access to weather and climate1 information and warnings will continue to be vital to all facets of the U.S. economy, social structure, and civic services. It is reasonable that the federal government continue to provide a service that benefits so many of its citizens. Moreover, NWS observations, forecasts, and warnings provide the equivalent of a safety net for the lives and property of U.S. citizens. It is, therefore, necessary that these services be of uniformly high quality. 2.   The NWS and its parent organization NOAA (National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration) will retain responsibility for an observational and data collection infrastructure that includes satellite, radar, surface, and upper air observing systems and the government applications from this infrastructure. Whenever possible, the data will be made available free of charge or at minimum cost to the broadest possible cross section of society. 3.   The NWS will continue to be responsible for maintaining, developing, and operating a suite of analytical and predictive models and the supercomputers required to run them. 4.   The boundaries between climate prediction and weather prediction will blur and eventually disappear. Certain climate forecasting responsibilities will become increasingly important functions of the NWS. For this reason, many of the NWS's current obligations ought to be viewed in the context of their contributions to the long-range climate record for the nation and the world. To preserve these data for future generations, NOAA will continue to maintain appropriate climate record archives. 5.   The NWS, other federal agencies, state and local entities, and private-sector companies will increasingly form strong, interactive partnerships. The types of partnerships and the functions of each partner will evolve as science, technology, and the industry evolve. 6.   The NWS and NOAA will provide observations, products, and services of the highest quality. A dominant theme throughout the NWS modernization has been to avoid degradation of services-a minimal goal for an information age organization. The director of the NWS and the administrator of NOAA have stated that the NWS is committed to an evolutionary future, in which it will not merely maintain quality but will significantly improve its services (Baker, 1997; Kelly, 1998). 7.   The science and technology communities will make enormous advances in the next 25 years. The global observing system will, therefore, no longer be limited to its current observations but will provide a rapid flow, and efficient storage, of highly diverse, asynchronous, high-resolution data. These data will be acquired from a multiplicity of sensors and platforms—some public, some private, and some operated jointly—that will allow unprecedented resolution in data assimilation and numerical prediction systems. Increases of at least several orders of magnitude in computing speed will provide for assimilation and modeling at high resolution with respect to both time and space. The analyses, assessments, and suggestions offered throughout this report are intended to help the NWS achieve its near-term goals and continue along the road to the future. The 1   In this report, the terms "weather" and "climate" include the relevant aspects of related disciplines, especially hydrology and oceanography.

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--> major theme can be stated succinctly: By applying the enabling science and technology (Chapter 2), merging and expanding weather information services into environmental information services (Chapter 3), and resolving organizational issues (Chapter 4), the NWS can realize the potential benefits to the nation reflected in the panel's vision for 2025.