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1 Introduction STUDY APPROACH AND REPORT ORGANIZATION The Committee envisions a distributed adaptive ânetwork of networksâ serving multiple environmental applications near the Earthâs surface. Jointly provided and used by government, industry, and the public, such observa- tions are essential to enable the vital services and facilities associated with health, safety, and the economic well-being of our nation. In considering its vision, practical considerations weighed heavily on the Committeeâs deliberations and in the formulation of its recommenda- tions. To that end, the study emphasizes societal applications and related factors influencing the implementation of an enhanced observing system, the intent of which is to markedly improve weather-related services and decision making. The Committee considered the various roles to be played by federal, state, and local governments, and by commercial entities. In essence, the study provides a framework and recommendations to engage the full range of providers for weather, climate, and related environmentally sensitive information, while enabling users of this information to employ an integrated national observation network effectively and efficiently in their specific applications. This study does not attempt to compile an exhaustive catalogue of mesoscale observational assets, although it identifies and summarizes numerous important sources for such information. Nor does this study attempt to design a national network, although it does identify critical system attributes and the ingredients deemed essential to retain sustained importance and relevance to users. 15
16 OBSERVING WEATHER AND CLIMATE FROM THE GROUND UP To lend substance to its vision, the Committee has structured consid- eration of ânational needsâ into six broad themes: (1) weather prediction and climate monitoring, (2) research, (3) energy security, (4) public health and safety, (5) transportation, and (6) water and food. The report is organized as follows: In the remainder of Chapter 1, we describe the historical development of meteorological observations in the United States, culminating in a summary of the current policy and techni- cal contexts. Chapter 2 surveys existing needs for mesoscale observations within the fundamental categories of weather prediction, climate monitoring, and research. âFundamentalâ is the appropriate word, because the infrastruc- ture required to collect, process, quality-check, and incorporate the raw observations into prediction models serves all other applications of eco- nomic significance. One may question why climate is considered in this report. Climate is in part a statistical representation of day-to-day weather in terms of means and departures from the mean. As such, it has mesoscale variability just like the weather, dependent upon latitude, topography, and land surface conditions. Thus, mesoscale observations that serve the purposes of weather monitoring and prediction also serve the purpose of climate, even though the standards of measurement may be different. Research is included in Chapter 2 for two reasons: (1) observations both suggest and confirm theories, and (2) research, particularly that involving field programs, often suggests novel ways of observing the atmosphere and prompts new instrument development. Chapter 3 examines five representative sectors of the U.S. economy that depend heavily upon the mesoscale observing and modeling infrastructure: energy security, public health and safety, transportation, water resources, and food production. For each economic sector, we discuss the impor- tance of mesoscale observing to the national economy and current assets and gaps in the observing system. The Committee hopes that Chapters 2 and 3 will bring into sharp focus the ubiquitous effects of weather and c Â limate on national life and the astounding diversity of needs for mesoscale observing. Chapter 4 is a guide to current observing capabilities and a preview of emerging instrument technologies. Taking a cue from the title of this report, âFrom the Ground Up,â this chapter first considers surface obser- vations, then moves to sensors attached to platforms that pass through the atmosphere (e.g., balloons, aircraft) or sample it remotely from the ground (e.g., radars). Next, the chapter summarizes satellite observing systems and stresses the complementary roles of space-based and ground-based systems. While this study ultimately focuses on observations that resolve mesoscale features, the utility of such observations is partly defined by a broader suite
INTRODUCTION 17 of observations taken at reduced resolution over larger geographic areas in support of numerical weather prediction. Chapter 5 brings together the aspects of a network as described in Chapters 2 to 4 in an architecture that can support all the functioning elements. The architecture recognizes that the national-level mesoscale network will be a network of networks (NoN). Chapter 6 provides a series of steps to ensure progress towards the Committeeâs vision of an integrated, multi-purpose, nationwide mesoscale NoN. These first steps involve a minimum level of coordination required for the provision of âessential core services,â which are necessary before a national NoN is possible, whatever the NoN organizational model might be. Options for such an organizational model are explored in Chapter 7. This exploration includes options for an organizational entity to run the enterprise and recommends a candidate organizational model, which identi- fies the various roles to be possibly played by federal, state, local, academic, and private partners. Chapter 8 concludes the report with a list of priorities for the way forward. THE HISTORICAL CONTEXT Records of systematic meteorological observations in the United States date back to pre-Revolutionary days, when both George Washington and Thomas Jefferson logged observations from Mount Vernon and ÂMonticello. Although observations and small networks proliferated between the Revo- lution and the mid-19th century, the systematic collection and distribution of meteorological data awaited the arrival of the telegraph to take off in force. By 1849, 150 volunteers were collecting basic meteorological observations and transmitting the data via telegraph to the Smithsonian Institution. Meteorologists plotted and analyzed the data to produce surface weather maps. On the eve of the Civil war, the number of volunteers in the Smithsonian network had grown to nearly 500. The Washington Evening Star collected these data and data from a variety of other networks, includ- ing those operated by state weather services. The first legislative mandate for weather observations arrived in the form of a Congressional Joint Resolution on February 9, 1870. Signed by President Grant, the resolution directed the Secretary of War to col- lect Âsynchronous weather observations and transmit them via telegraph to W Â ashington, D.C. This effort eventually culminated in the Â establishment of the Cooperative Observer Program (COOP), under the auspices of the Organic Act of 1890 that established the Weather Bureau within the Depart- ment of Agriculture. The Organic Act directed the Weather Bureau to
18 OBSERVING WEATHER AND CLIMATE FROM THE GROUND UP forecast the weather; issue storm warnings; display weather and flood signals for the benefit of agriculture, commerce, and navigation; gauge and report the flow of rivers; maintain and operate the seacoast telegraph lines and collect and transmit marine intelligence for the benefit of commerce and navigation; report temperature and rain-fall conditions for the cotton interests; display of frost and cold-wave signals; distribute meteorological information in the interests of agriculture and commerce; and take the meteorological observations that may be necessary to establish and record the climatic conditions of the United States, or that are essential for the proper execution of the foregoing duties. The COOP network, a volunteer network of observers who collect daily meteorological observations that are archived by the National Cli- matic Data Center (NCDC), had grown to more than 11,000 stations by the beginning of the 21st century. Moreover, the observational capabilities of the National Weather Service (NWS) and other federal organizations had expanded well beyond surface-based, basic meteorological variables to encompass a broad suite of Earth system observations. Key legislation supported the expansion of these observational capabilities. In 1926, the Air Commerce Act directed the Weather Bureau to assume responsibility for observation, forecasts, and warnings for atmospheric phe- nomena impacting the safety and efficiency of civil aviation in the United States and above the high seas. The Act called for the establishment of a specific organizational structure for this purpose. In 1938, the Flood Con- trol Act significantly expanded the role of the Weather Bureau in the realm of hydrology and water resources, calling upon the Bureau to establish the Hydroclimatic Network, an information system for precipitation, with the express purpose of flood control, forecasts, and warnings. This Act resulted in part from the severe Ohio River flooding of 1937 and the realization in hindsight of the utility of detailed hydrologic observations in providing river flood warnings in a timely and economical manner. During that flood, 70 percent of the city of Louisville, Kentucky, was flooded, and downstream Paducah was completely evacuated. Recognizing that the scope of the Weather Bureauâs mission had grown far beyond its original role of supporting agricultural interests, President Franklin Roosevelt put forth his Reorganization Plan No. 4 on June 30, 1940, which transferred the Weather Bureau to the Department of Com- merce. President Rooseveltâs plan specifically recognized the paramount role of the Bureau in aviation, and stressed that the move should in no way â[lesson] the Bureauâs contribution to agriculture.â It was about this time that the observational capabilities of the Bureau were revolutionized by the introduction of the radiosonde, which provided systematic vertical profiles of wind, temperature, pressure, and humidity in a much safer and
INTRODUCTION 19 cost-effective manner than the aircraft missions that had been employed by various civilian and military agencies since the early 20th century. Just a few years earlier, the Bureau had begun collecting systematic observations over marine waters by placing instruments on floating buoys. The need for detailed meteorological observations grew significantly with the entrance of the United States into World War II, and was mainly associated with military operations. Additional upper air and surface obser- vations were taken systematically at the synoptic scale, and awareness of the mesoscale began to emerge. Soon afterward, the Thunderstorm Project (Byers and Braham, 1949) observed the mesoscale through the introduction of World War II military radar and instrumented aircraft. In the decades after the war, several legislative mandates were enacted to establish new observational programs and organizational structures, in order to advance the new capabilities and apply them to enhancing the safety and economic well-being of the American public. The Federal Aviation Act of 1958 signifi- cantly expanded the role of the Department of Commerce in meteorological applications for aviation, specifically by extending observations into the polar regions and directing the department to form international agree- ments with the weather services of other nations for the express purpose of sharing data. On June 26, 1959, the Weather Bureau commissioned the first operational modern radar for weather surveillance, the WSR-57, at the new Hurricane Forecast Center in Miami, Florida. Concurrent with these post-War legislative developments, the National Research Council (NRC) Committee on Meteorology recommended a 100 percent increase in federal funding of university-based meteorological research and the establishment of a national institute to provide research facilities and equipment beyond the reach of any single university (NRC, 1958). Thereafter, the National Center for Atmospheric Research (NCAR) was established, university research flourished, and the federal government supported sustained growth in the development and deployment of meteo- rological observing systems. During the 1960s and 1970s legislation was enacted that established observational programs across and within a variety of agencies. The Weather Bureau was renamed the National Weather Service and was reorganized under the auspices of the new Environmental Science Services Administra- tion (ESSA) in 1967, and President Nixon issued an executive order that established the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) in 1970. Research developments continued to expand environmental obser- vation capabilities. The application of satellite technology provided a Âparallel revolution in our ability to observe Earthâs atmosphere. With the arrival of the 1980s, the research and technological advances necessary to modernize mesoscale observing capabilities were in place. What had previously been established in the United States provided suf-
20 OBSERVING WEATHER AND CLIMATE FROM THE GROUND UP ficient data on the synoptic scale, but operational capabilities still lagged for observations of mesoscale phenomena. A new framework was needed to implement research advances in in-situ technology, radar, and satel- lites to real time, mesoscale observations of weather, water, and climate. The 1992 Weather Service Modernization Act provided such a pathway. Several major new observing systems were deployed as part of the NWS modernization, including the NEXRAD network of WSR-88D Doppler radars and the Automated Surface Observing Systems (ASOS). Other sys- tems were deployed with varying degrees of operational stability, including a demonstration network of vertically pointing radar wind profilers. The Advanced Weather Information Processing System (AWIPS) provided a workstation environment for integrating these datasets and putting them at the hands of operational forecasters at newly constructed Weather Forecast Offices(WFOs) around the United States. In its final report, A Vision for the National Weather Service: Road Map for the Future (NRC, 1999), the National Weather Service Modernization Committee (NWSMC) recognized the significant potential advances in numerical weather prediction that could result from such observations. Developments in mesoscale observing capabilities have continued since the NWS modernization. Many state and local governments, universities, and private-sector interests have developed and deployed dense networks of meteorological observing stations (âmesonetsâ). Broadcast media oper- ate ground-based radars that are in some regions spaced comparably to NEXRAD radars. Other sensors provide chemical weather and air pol- lution information at spatial and temporal resolutions beyond traditional meteorological observing systems. Yet, at the end of the first decade of the 21st century, these observational systems are not national in scope, and a national-scale infrastructure for systematically collecting and disseminating the observations does not exist. A new mandate may be necessary both to expand capabilities and to leverage existing systems for the next advance in the United Statesâ mesoscale observing capabilities. Shortly before the NWSMC released its final report, the NRC released The Atmospheric Sciences Entering the Twenty-First Century (NRC, 1998), which designated its two highest-priority recommendations as âimpera- tives,â calling upon âthe atmospheric science community and relevant fed- eral agencies [to] develop a specific plan for optimizing global observations of the atmosphere, oceans, and landâ and to commit to a strategy, priorities, and a program for developing new capa- bilities for observing critical variables, including water in all its phases, wind, aerosols, and chemical constituents and variables related to phe- nomena in near-Earth space, all on spatial and temporal scales relevant to forecasts and applications.
INTRODUCTION 21 Since the release of this report, a number of additional reports have addressed the need for enhanced mesoscale observing capabilities for spe- cific systems and applications, including use of satellite data in numerical weather prediction systems (NRC, 2000), dispersion and hazardous releases (NRC, 2003a), transportation (NRC, 2004a), and the need to reinvigorate the U.S. environmental space program (NRC, 2007a). Other recent reports have focused on data management and the orga- nizational and programmatic structures that could facilitate partnerships among public, private, and academic interests. Fair Weather: Effective Partnerships in Weather and Climate Services (NRC, 2003b) proposed mechanisms whereby NWS could modify its approach to agreements with private-sector interests. Most recently, Environmental Data Management at NOAA (NRC, 2007b) provided recommendations for archiving and assessing data and metadata at NOAA, including the recommendation that NOAA âshould establish and codify an enterprise-wide data manage- ment plan that explicitly incorporates all the principlesâ set forth in that report. A goal of this report is to build upon the recommendations provided in previous reports, while taking into account current policy and technical contexts to provide a framework for the advancement of a multi-purpose mesoscale observation network that meets multiple national needs. CURRENT POLICY AND TECHNICAL CONTEXTS Capabilities related to the development and delivery of accurate, reli- able, and useful mesoscale (i.e., the scale of high-impact weather systems) atmospheric forecasts have improved in the past decades as computing power and modeling capabilities have improved, but the benefits of these increased capabilities have not been fully realized in practical applications. There is an emerging consensus in the observational, modeling, and fore- cast communities that a carefully designed, integrated three-dimensional national mesoscale network will yield markedly improved short-range forecasts (Dabberdt et al., 2005a). Such forecasts could provide concrete benefits to decision making in areas such as severe weather, flash flooding, water management, energy production and management, transportation management, forestry and coastal ecosystem management and monitoring, agriculture, air quality, urban area management, homeland security, and public health and safety. A number of national priorities require meteorological observations at spatial and temporal resolutions that are much finer than widely available today. These priorities include tracking atmospheric dispersion of chemical, biological, and nuclear contaminants from industrial accidents and terrorist activities; predicting and monitoring smoke dispersion from wildfires, pre-
22 OBSERVING WEATHER AND CLIMATE FROM THE GROUND UP scribed burns, and seasonal agricultural fires; providing information for air quality forecasting, high-resolution nowcasting, and short-range forecasting of high-impact weather; providing high-resolution weather information for aviation, surface transportation, and coastal waterways; and supporting regional climate monitoring. Improved mesoscale observation networks in urban areas are particularly important for addressing many of these pri- orities. Identifying ways to enhance and design mesoscale meteorological observing systems (including calibration of environmental data from satel- lites) so they effectively and jointly serve these and other needs provides an opportunity to dramatically improve analysis and prediction capabilities while sharing infrastructure and costs. Therefore the current technical context demands an overarching national strategy to integrate existing disparate systems and to define the additional observations needed to achieve the desired result. Furthermore, guidance must be provided on how best to implement a practical, useable, and cost-effective system of truly multi-purpose mesoscale observations. A major implementation challenge is to retain the energy, enthusiasm, and diverse investments that have led to our current condition, while also introducing an appropriate degree of centralization for the purposes of coordination and integration to maximize the national benefit.