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Suggested Citation:"5 Conclusion." National Research Council. 2010. When Weather Matters: Science and Services to Meet Critical Societal Needs. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/12888.
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5
Conclusion

The committee was charged with answering questions about the state of U.S. weather research and research-to-operations (R2O) activities and, in so doing, to identify priority needs in each area. In undertaking its task, the committee drew upon the broad range of work that had been reported since 1995 (Table 1.1); convened a workshop in summer 2009 with 50 invited experts in an array of disciplines from the public, private, and academic sectors; and subsequently undertook its own deliberations and examinations to gain insight into research and transitional problems, challenges, needs, and opportunities germane to weather, broadly defined. Eight important areas were identified, each having a certain amount of intrinsic overlap with the others:

  • socioeconomics,

  • weather modeling and predictability,

  • quantitative precipitation estimation and forecasting,

  • hydrologic modeling,

  • mesoscale observations,

  • impacts forecasting,

  • urban meteorology, and

  • renewable energy production.

Socioeconomic needs were placed first in this report because they cut across all seven other needs, but also because they have been underemphasized, undervalued, and undersupported for too long. Placing socioeconomic needs first was the committee’s modest attempt to further emphasize their importance and need of attention. The report next identified four so-called established (or ongoing) research and R2O needs. These are needs that have been recognized for some time as important, with achievable goals, but that have yet to be completed or implemented in practice. The four established

Suggested Citation:"5 Conclusion." National Research Council. 2010. When Weather Matters: Science and Services to Meet Critical Societal Needs. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/12888.
×

needs remain pressing and are high priorities; they are predictability and global nonhydrostatic coupled modeling, quantitative precipitation estimation and forecasting, hydrologic prediction, and mesoscale observations. Finally, three emerging needs were identified. These are research and transitional needs that have come to be recognized or appreciated in the United States over the past 5 to 10 years as increasingly important, but that are only in the early stages of understanding or implementation. They include very high impact weather and impacts forecasting, urban meteorology, and renewable energy production. Socioeconomics could perhaps be considered another emerging need.

In retrospect, there are crosscutting issues that span all eight of the needs areas and the report might as easily have been organized differently. As mentioned, socioeconomics cuts across all areas, but then so do mesoscale observations and modeling—the latter encompassing global, mesoscale weather and hydrology. Lastly, the importance of, and the need for, effective partnerships is intrinsic to all eight areas. In today’s science and services environment, partnerships are crucial to the conduct of most research and certainly to the transitioning of research results into operations (as well as transitioning operational needs back to research, or O2R). Partnerships can involve multiple disciplines as well as multiple sectors, and sometimes both. They are necessary because of the inter- and multidisciplinary nature of the science, and also because the task at hand is often simply just too large, too difficult, or too expensive to be undertaken without partners.

Part of the study’s statement of task was to assess “what could be done in the short term to reinvigorate agency and interagency planning for weather research and research-to-operations activities in the U.S.?” NRC policy precludes the study from making prescriptive organizational recommendations, but the study’s recommendations and findings themselves point to several things that can and should be done to reinvigorate agency and interagency planning. It’s clear that an active dialogue needs to be established and maintained that includes stakeholders representing a wide range of disciplines: socioeconomics (broadly defined); atmospheric, environmental, and hydrologic science; measurement and observational science and engineering; urban planning; emergency management; transportation planning; renewable energy production; and more. The stakeholders must come not only from federal, state, and municipal agencies but also from the private sector and academia. An effective mechanism that has worked in the past (albeit with a narrower focus) is for the federal agencies to initiate the dialogue through a community “weather summit” of sorts that would bring the parties together for the purpose of identifying priorities and defining specific actions

Suggested Citation:"5 Conclusion." National Research Council. 2010. When Weather Matters: Science and Services to Meet Critical Societal Needs. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/12888.
×

to establish1 a cohesive approach to the planning of weather research and R2O. There are several organizations that might be tasked by the federal agencies to bring the parties together and organize such a summit; they include the National Research Council (which organized the 2009 Summit on America’s Climate Choices2 among other such gatherings); the National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) Science Advisory Board; NOAA’s Office of the Federal Coordinator for Meteorology; and the American Meteorological Society.

In closing, we reiterate that it is crucial that the weather enterprise address these established and emerging issues and vigorously and rigorously undertake the research needed to develop the capacity to deal with them, and then transfer the important research results into operations. This can be started by recognizing that as the world and our nation’s challenges have changed, the scientific research priorities and operational priorities need to change as well. As such, this report and its recommendations can provide the beginnings of a framework that is relevant to all parties in the weather enterprise: agency decision makers, policy makers, research scientists, private-sector applications specialists, teachers, public and private user groups and organizations, and the general public.

1

We have consciously avoided the term “reinvigorate,” as called out in the Statement of Task, as that would imply there has been a cohesive and effective approach to the planning of weather research and R2O in the past, which is only partially the case.

2

Summit on America’s Climate Choices, March 30–31, 2009, The National Academy of Sciences, 2101 Constitution Avenue, N.W., Washington, D.C. (http://americasclimatechoices. org/summit.shtml).

Suggested Citation:"5 Conclusion." National Research Council. 2010. When Weather Matters: Science and Services to Meet Critical Societal Needs. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/12888.
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Suggested Citation:"5 Conclusion." National Research Council. 2010. When Weather Matters: Science and Services to Meet Critical Societal Needs. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/12888.
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Suggested Citation:"5 Conclusion." National Research Council. 2010. When Weather Matters: Science and Services to Meet Critical Societal Needs. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/12888.
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Suggested Citation:"5 Conclusion." National Research Council. 2010. When Weather Matters: Science and Services to Meet Critical Societal Needs. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/12888.
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Suggested Citation:"5 Conclusion." National Research Council. 2010. When Weather Matters: Science and Services to Meet Critical Societal Needs. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/12888.
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The past 15 years have seen marked progress in observing, understanding, and predicting weather. At the same time, the United States has failed to match or surpass progress in operational numerical weather prediction achieved by other nations and failed to realize its prediction potential; as a result, the nation is not mitigating weather impacts to the extent possible.

This book represents a sense of the weather community as guided by the discussions of a Board on Atmospheric Sciences and Climate community workshop held in summer 2009. The book puts forth the committee's judgment on the most pressing high level, weather-focused research challenges and research to operations needs, and makes corresponding recommendations. The book addresses issues including observations, global non-hydrostatic coupled modeling, data assimilation, probabilistic forecasting, and quantitative precipitation and hydrologic forecasting. The book also identifies three important, emerging issues--predictions of very high impact weather, urban meteorology, and renewable energy development--not recognized or emphasized in previous studies. Cutting across all of these challenges is a set of socioeconomic issues, whose importance and emphasis--while increasing--has been undervalued and underemphasized in the past and warrants greater recognition and priority today.

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