Executive Summary

As the United States moves into the twenty-first century, individuals and organizations throughout the nation are reaping the rewards of more than a century of ever improving and expanding national weather and climate services. Accurate weather forecasts and climate projections are increasingly critical elements of any public and private decision-making process. Societal needs for new and improved products in such areas as water resources, air quality, and space weather are increasing. Improvements to forecast models and products will provide more accurate and timely forecasts, which can then be used by decision makers to better protect life and property, expand opportunities to stimulate economic activity, enhance national competitiveness, and improve environmental management.

This report examines the capability of two critical components of the forecast system for the efficient transfer of weather and climate research findings into improved operational forecast capabilities. The first component reviewed was the Environmental Modeling Center (EMC) of the National Weather Service's (NWS) National Centers for Environmental Prediction (NCEP). EMC's mission is to develop, enhance, and maintain numerical forecast systems in support of national and international forecast requirements (Lord, 1999). EMC operates numerical forecast systems for weather prediction (global and regional, 1-15 days), ocean prediction (global, daily to annual), and climate prediction (seasonal to interannual). This review was prompted by concerns of government



The National Academies | 500 Fifth St. N.W. | Washington, D.C. 20001
Copyright © National Academy of Sciences. All rights reserved.
Terms of Use and Privacy Statement



Below are the first 10 and last 10 pages of uncorrected machine-read text (when available) of this chapter, followed by the top 30 algorithmically extracted key phrases from the chapter as a whole.
Intended to provide our own search engines and external engines with highly rich, chapter-representative searchable text on the opening pages of each chapter. Because it is UNCORRECTED material, please consider the following text as a useful but insufficient proxy for the authoritative book pages.

Do not use for reproduction, copying, pasting, or reading; exclusively for search engines.

OCR for page 1
FROM RESEARCH TO OPERATIONS IN WEATHER SATELLITES AND NUMERICAL WEATHER PREDICTION: CROSSING THE VALLEY OF DEATH Executive Summary As the United States moves into the twenty-first century, individuals and organizations throughout the nation are reaping the rewards of more than a century of ever improving and expanding national weather and climate services. Accurate weather forecasts and climate projections are increasingly critical elements of any public and private decision-making process. Societal needs for new and improved products in such areas as water resources, air quality, and space weather are increasing. Improvements to forecast models and products will provide more accurate and timely forecasts, which can then be used by decision makers to better protect life and property, expand opportunities to stimulate economic activity, enhance national competitiveness, and improve environmental management. This report examines the capability of two critical components of the forecast system for the efficient transfer of weather and climate research findings into improved operational forecast capabilities. The first component reviewed was the Environmental Modeling Center (EMC) of the National Weather Service's (NWS) National Centers for Environmental Prediction (NCEP). EMC's mission is to develop, enhance, and maintain numerical forecast systems in support of national and international forecast requirements (Lord, 1999). EMC operates numerical forecast systems for weather prediction (global and regional, 1-15 days), ocean prediction (global, daily to annual), and climate prediction (seasonal to interannual). This review was prompted by concerns of government

OCR for page 1
FROM RESEARCH TO OPERATIONS IN WEATHER SATELLITES AND NUMERICAL WEATHER PREDICTION: CROSSING THE VALLEY OF DEATH officials that EMC funding was insufficient and working conditions adverse, resulting in compounded problems related to ineffective prioritization, insular operations, and failure to access the talent and resources required to adequately fulfill the EMC mission (Dorman, 1999).1 The second component of the forecasting system reviewed was the environmental observational satellite program. Even with the high utility of satellite observations, it was more than a decade from the launch of the first satellite before the benefits of satellite meteorology were being routinely used in the operations of the National Weather Service. Another five years passed before the satellite data were used in operational numerical weather prediction. In the first two decades of the environmental satellite program, NASA conducted a development program for new satellite sensors called the Operational Satellite Improvement Program (OSIP). These sensors were then transferred to NOAA for operational implementation. OSIP was cancelled in 1982. Recent NRC reports have highlighted the problems facing the climate community arising from inadequate planning for transition between the research satellites of NASA and the operational monitoring satellites of NOAA (NRC, 1998c, 1999b). In response to the growing concern for the long-term monitoring of climate, NASA and NOAA have proposed a project to transfer instrumentation from the NASA Earth Observing System (EOS) to the NOAA National Polar-Orbiting Environmental Satellite System (NPOESS) operational satellites. This project, the NPOESS Preparatory Project (NPP), is a single satellite mission planned for 2005. BASC FINDINGS BASC found that the capability of NCEP and the environmental satellites needs to be improved or the transition from research to operations will likely be hampered as the forecasting system attempts to respond to 1   The Dorman report resulted from a management review of the National Weather Service, led by Radm (Ret.) Craig Dorman, commissioned by the Department of Commerce to examine issues of technology infusion in the NWS. It provided documentation for various personnel, budget, and operational issues associated with the National Centers for Environmental Prediction and served as good background information for the summer study. The report is available from the Director, National Weather Service, and is also a part of the Public Access File maintained by the National Research Council for all reports.

OCR for page 1
FROM RESEARCH TO OPERATIONS IN WEATHER SATELLITES AND NUMERICAL WEATHER PREDICTION: CROSSING THE VALLEY OF DEATH society's needs for new, and better, forecast products. BASC recommends actions to enable the U.S. weather services to maximize the benefits from the nation's investment in weather and climate forecasting research. While the overall atmospheric and oceanic research community in the United States is strong and forms the basis for expanding the quality and diversity of services provided to the nation, there is no concerted effort to address the societal benefits and economic impacts of various research and operational strategies. For instance, while the social science community is becoming engaged in the U.S. Weather Research Program (USWRP), few resources are being targeted for this activity. When BASC examined the plans and capabilities for the transition of research to operations at EMC, several shortcomings were noted: EMC does not possess the capability to test and evaluate new algorithms and new forecast models in parallel with the operational system or to obtain feedback from the user community2. There are insufficient computational resources to allow simultaneous testing of new model versions in parallel with the operational forecast computer runs. In most cases, when new sensors are developed, insufficient budget is provided to develop the algorithms necessary to introduce those sensors into the operational system. There is limited capability to address the special needs associated with assimilation of a large volume of new satellite observations. No one at EMC is clearly assigned the responsibility for technology transition. Human resources at EMC receive only 47 percent of their funding from the base budget. The remainder is supported by soft money (funding that is not stable from year to year). Soft money poses difficulties in the planning that is required for an operational agency and can dilute the mission's effectiveness since the source of the soft funding frequently has objectives that may diverge from the operational mission. Before its cancellation in 1982, the NASA Operational Satellite Improvement Program (OSIP) was a very effective mechanism for developing new sensors, proving their capability, and transferring them to the operational agencies for implementation. The NPP project offers a 2   This term is used throughout the report to include various sectors of society that use weather and climate information. It includes various economic sectors (agriculture, transportation, industry, insurance, etc.) as well as emergency managers, the media, and the general public.

OCR for page 1
FROM RESEARCH TO OPERATIONS IN WEATHER SATELLITES AND NUMERICAL WEATHER PREDICTION: CROSSING THE VALLEY OF DEATH method for transitioning some of the recently developed sensors from NASA to NOAA. In some respects NPP fulfills some of the important characteristics of the former OSIP program; however, it is presently planned as a single mission. BASC reviewed the NPP project plans, and several of the BASC members who participated in earlier studies (NRC, 1998c, 1999b) were able to identify the favorable progress that had been made in planning for the NPP. However, additional effort is still required for an effective national program of transition. BASC also recognizes that programs such as NPOESS, as currently planned, are not solutions to all climate and weather observational needs. Many of the research to forecast product transition issues discussed in this report in the context of weather and climate will also be encountered as NOAA and other organizations define and produce forecasts of air quality, water quantity and quality, ultraviolet radiation, space weather, and other environmental properties. If they are to succeed, planning for these forecast products must be thorough and involve the relevant research and user communities. The following recommendations would enhance NOAA's ability to coordinate the plans for developing and producing forecasts of environmental properties with these communities. Relevant researchers and users would also be provided with the mechanisms to continuously improve these forecast products.

OCR for page 1
FROM RESEARCH TO OPERATIONS IN WEATHER SATELLITES AND NUMERICAL WEATHER PREDICTION: CROSSING THE VALLEY OF DEATH KEY RECOMMENDATIONS RELATING TO EMC Recommendation EMC-1 NOAA should implement a development, testing, and integration facility at EMC. It should have the following characteristics: Adequate computer resources Adequate personnel with the proper understanding of user needs, as well as technological capabilities, including communications expertise A model archiving system Improved visitor programs Expertise in parallel processing and efficient code development The inability to evaluate and test new algorithms while maintaining current operational forecasts is a major limitation (Emanuel and Kalnay, 1996). Recommendation EMC-2 NOAA should determine the staffing levels required to perform EMC 's operational mission and support these critical staff through base funding. This will eliminate the planning uncertainties and other negative impacts of soft money for an operational organization. Added Requirements to Serve Future Needs Recommendation EMC-3 NWS should seriously consider co-locating EMC with other appropriate institutions.

OCR for page 1
FROM RESEARCH TO OPERATIONS IN WEATHER SATELLITES AND NUMERICAL WEATHER PREDICTION: CROSSING THE VALLEY OF DEATH Operational predictions of weather, water, and climate should be integrated in order to make optimal forecasts to serve the nation. The NWS has already recognized that co-location of forecasting centers with universities and research centers has led to faster progress through synergy.Recommendation EMC-4 NWS should establish a continuing process for assessing the state of EMC's technology and for updating it as needed to accomplish EMC 's national mission. This process should be part of a broader NWS plan for technology infusion (NRC, 1999c). This requires a plan based on assessment of life expectations for major equipment, a capital budget that reflects realistic costs for the required upgrade of equipment, and an assessment of the organizational structure (staff requirements, opportunities for alliances, etc.) needed to utilize this technology efficiently. As we enter the twenty-first century, it will be impossible to meet tomorrow's needs with yesterday's technology. An annual budget, designed around life cycle costs should enable forecasting system capabilities to be in place to meet the evolving needs of the nation for weather and climate forecasts. Recommendation EMC-5 EMC should actively participate in the USWRP to ensure that research objectives are consistent with operational needs and to enable the effective transition of more promising results to operation. EMC should collaborate with other appropriate parties in the development of community prediction models. The USWRP has been justified in terms of transferring research into improved products for the nation, so it is appropriate that USWRP activi-

OCR for page 1
FROM RESEARCH TO OPERATIONS IN WEATHER SATELLITES AND NUMERICAL WEATHER PREDICTION: CROSSING THE VALLEY OF DEATH ties be structured to enable this transition. The community prediction model approach enables rapid assimilation of new research results. Recommendation EMC-6 Recognizing the importance of the ocean in weather and climate forecasting, EMC leadership should be cognizant of the ocean-related research conducted outside the framework of the USWRP by the National Science Foundation, the Office of Naval Research, etc., and seek opportunities for the transition of appropriate results from research to operations. NSF, NOAA, Navy, and NASA funded research and research communities that have little to do with the USWRP can be key players and partners with EMC. The air–sea interaction and coupled ocean–atmosphere–land climate communities can contribute research results to the EMC mission. Recommendation EMC-7 NCEP and EMC, under broad NWS guidelines, should institutionalize the transition process, assigning clear responsibility for continuous evaluation of its effectiveness and for the identification of bottlenecks and opportunities. With the important exception of DOD, the nation's forecasting enterprise lacks a clear delineation of responsibility for the transfer of research to operations, although there does exist clear responsibility for both research and operations. Examples of the development of new technologies without concomitant improvements in operational products are identified in Chapter 3 and Chapter 4.

OCR for page 1
FROM RESEARCH TO OPERATIONS IN WEATHER SATELLITES AND NUMERICAL WEATHER PREDICTION: CROSSING THE VALLEY OF DEATH KEY RECOMMENDATIONS FOR THE ENVIRONMENTAL SATELLITE PROGRAMS Recommendation Satellite-1 NASA and NOAA should implement a replacement to the Operational Satellite Improvement Program (OSIP) having the following characteristics: A planned path for the transition of instruments from research to operations A commitment to algorithm development commensurate with hardware development Calibration and validation of derived geophysical parameters Close linkage to the development, testing, and integration facility at NOAA's EMC as recommended in Chapter 3 A robust program of technology development, exploratory sensor development, and research missions ensures a continuous push toward improved capability in environmental remote sensing to improve weather and climate forecasting. Recommendation Satellite-2 NOAA should form a team at the start of sensor development, consisting of NOAA and non-NOAA scientists, as well as those representing the end user of forecast information, to (1) plan the full scope of the data research and utilization effort as part of sensor design with a budget to support the activity, and (2) assist NCEP in developing the archiving requirements for the EMC user communities The objective is to develop a feedback and advanced planning component of the NPOESS process that ensures a more rapid transition of new observations to operational use.

OCR for page 1
FROM RESEARCH TO OPERATIONS IN WEATHER SATELLITES AND NUMERICAL WEATHER PREDICTION: CROSSING THE VALLEY OF DEATH Recommendation Satellite-3a It is critical that NPOESS develop a coherent and credible plan for the archiving of NPOESS data so that the data are readily available to the community, including the research, operational, and private sectors. This data availability should extend from raw satellite data to gridded geophysical variables to address the range of potential users. Recommendation Satellite-3b NASA and NOAA should evaluate the potential savings that would result from an interagency commitment to archive NPOESS satellite data through EOSDIS. NASA's EOSDIS has demonstrated the complexities and costs associated with the development of an accessible data archive. Given that EOSDIS is currently the only data system with the potential to address the large-scale problems described here, careful assessment of its suitability for NPOESS archival is appropriate. Recommendation Satellite-4 NOAA and NASA should begin to explore the potential of integrating in situ and satellite observation networks in support of both research and operational needs. NPOESS has begun the process of convergence in national satellite systems, but the issues being addressed by NPOESS for satellite systems are equally applicable to the entire observational network. Similar integration is appropriate for in situ networks and for combined satellite-in situ measurement systems. This will facilitate the data assimilation process and therefore accelerate the use of disparate and complex data into operational weather forecasting.

OCR for page 1
FROM RESEARCH TO OPERATIONS IN WEATHER SATELLITES AND NUMERICAL WEATHER PREDICTION: CROSSING THE VALLEY OF DEATH Recommendation Satellite-5 NASA and NOAA should work together to ensure that the continuity of critical climate and weather observations is maintained. BASC reiterates the recommendations contained in several NRC reports (NRC, 1998a, 1998c, 1999a, 1999c) stressing the need for more effective planning and execution of the observing systems for climate and weather. Recommendation Balance-1 NOAA should adopt the philosophy in which new sensor development would incorporate plans for the inclusion of funds for the transition of the data into operational products at the appropriate stage of the development process. Recommendation Balance-2 It is clearly preferable to add the necessary resources to EMC without negatively impacting the nation's weather and climate research enterprise. However, if that is not possible, then BASC recommends that some of the nation's weather and climate research resources be shifted to EMC-related enterprises and the USWRP. Finally, BASC recommends that NOAA study the balance of its efforts in weather and climate with the goal of establishing an organization that efficiently balances the task of performing research and transferring this research into operations. This study should also take into account the research provided by other agencies, most notably NSF and NASA. Such agencies should also

OCR for page 1
FROM RESEARCH TO OPERATIONS IN WEATHER SATELLITES AND NUMERICAL WEATHER PREDICTION: CROSSING THE VALLEY OF DEATH help in providing prototype capabilities to transform their research into the applications for which they were intended. Study of the balance between research and operations should occur continuously, or imbalances will quickly re-establish themselves.