On March 10, four new datasets were added to NOAAPORT for use in Advanced Weather Interactive Processing System (AWIPS) by the Weather Forecast Offices (WFOs). The datasets included a 1-degree global grid and three 20km grids centered over CONUS, Alaska, and Puerto Rico. A fifth dataset centered over the Pacific Region will be added in the upcoming months once the network capacity is upgraded.
DSCOVR was made possible by a joint program between NOAA, NASA, and the US Air Force. NASA provided the spacecraft, the Air Force provided the SpaceX Falcon-9 launch, and NOAA will operate DSCOVR as the first operational space weather satellite in deep space. DSCOVR will complete its journey to the L1 point on June 8. Following instrument checkout, NASA will transition DSCOVR to NOAA to begin its formal operational period in mid-July.
The FAA, pursuant to Title 49 United States Code Section 44720, established requirements for this weather information and service which is necessary for the safe and efficient conduct of operations in the NAS. The initial FAA requirements focus on convective weather, since convection has historically caused the greatest number of NAS constraints. If proven successful, the OB/CAWS is planned to be expanded to all aviation hazards. During the operational demonstration of OB/CAWS which will be conducted throughout the 2015 convective season the FAA will lead an assessment to refine CAWS requirements. During the evaluation, input focusing on usability, effectiveness, and areas of potential improvement for OB and the CAWS, will be collected.
Public comments will be collected via a survey at
At the same time as providing unprecedented collaboration internally, WPC extended capability to conduct 156 media interviews just in February, with 115 of them being radio interviews and 41 print news. Frequent interviews included Bloomberg News, Reuters, CBS, and the Associated Press. The enhanced national media attention established NWS as the nation's trusted source for weather information and is critical for appropriate public response during threatening weather.
Two storms particularly stand out, the first being the pre-Thanksgiving storm of 2014. This was a difficult forecast with potential high impact on major metropolitan areas during the busiest travel days of the year. Awareness was raised up to 7 days in advance with the WPC Medium Range forecasts. As the event drew closer, collaboration calls were held between WPC and local forecast offices. Forecasters emphasized it would be a close call for the big cities, with the heaviest snow just to the west. The forecast snowfall amounts were used to make Warning and Advisory decisions which were very accurate (Fig. 1). NWS Director Dr. Uccellini commented, "I was more than impressed with how NCEP and Eastern Region worked the collaborative effort to bring about the coherent forecast and communication of the evolution of this event."
Second was the blizzard of January 25-27, 2015, which set an all-time record snowfall in Worster, MA, while producing over a foot of snow from New York to Portland, ME. Amazingly, the potential for a coastal storm was predicted seven days in advance, with the specific threat to the Northeast highlighted consistently up to five days in advance. Special collaboration calls among WPC and northeast forecast offices yielded a consistent picture of heavy snow from New Jersey to Maine, even in the face of model uncertainty 24-36 hours in advance of the storm. Attendant national media interviews sent a consistent message of a major event. For the event as a whole, the winter storm warning accuracy was 98% with an amazing 37 hour lead time – well above typical performance. The result of the accurate, consistent, and understandable message, in this case, was appropriate preparations and a quick recovery throughout the region.
The unprecedented collaboration and intense media messaging is building a Weather Ready Nation.
On February 15, task order 005 was awarded. This task order separated the cost and billing for the electrical power and cooling from task orders 002, 003, and 004. The expectation is that NCEP should realize some cost savings over time. A contract modification was made to task Order 002 adding additional storage hardware and software to improve the overall performance of the storage architecture delivered as part to task orders 002 and 003.
On February 27, the contract award for task Order 004 was completed, adding 2 Petaflops (PF) of additional compute capacity, providing a total of 2.8 PF for the entire WCOSS, per site. Equipment delivery will begin in June 2015 with system acceptance planned to be completed by October 2015.
There were more than three dozen media interviews conducted over the span of the conference, arranged and facilitated by NOAA/NHC Communications PAO Dennis Feltgen. In addition, a press conference was conducted with NHC Director Rick Knabb and FEMA Administrator Craig Fugate, also facilitated by Feltgen.
The principle themes were:
1) Focus on the hazards of the tropical cyclone, not just the category of intensity.
2) The prototype storm surge watch/warning graphic will debut this season.
3) The potential storm surge flooding map will continue experimentally this season.
4) The seasonal outlook should never be used as a guide to preparation.
The main interviewees were NHC Director Rick Knabb, Hurricane Specialist Unit Branch Chief James Franklin, NHC Storm Surge team leader Jamie Rhome, Science and Operations Officer Chris Landsea, and the Hurricane Specialists. They were interviewed primarily by the print and television media with stations along the gulf and southeast coasts.
Dr. Tom Berger, SWPC Director, gave the Space Weather session keynote, which provided the audience an excellent overview of space weather and the way satellite and ground data are used in nowcast and forecast. Dr. Steve Hill then gave a talk on the progress of migrating to AWIPS 2 and how present and future GOES data is being integrated with the support of NCO. Dr. Rodney Viereck provided updates on the major ongoing efforts in the Space Weather Prediction Testbed (SWPT) at SWPC, including the Whole Atmosphere Model, Geospace Modeling, and the WSA-Enlil solar wind model. Dr. Terry Onsager spoke about international coordination on space weather, to include the following: WMO (World Meteorological Organization), ICAO (International Civil Aviation Organization), CGMS (Coordination Group for Meteorological Satellites), COPUOS (United Nations Committee on the Peaceful Uses of Outer Space) and ISES (International Space Environment Service). Additional supporting talks were given by Bill Denig (NESDIS) and Dr. Greg Kopp (University of Colorado).
The Space Weather session presentations provided an introduction to those in the audience with terrestrial weather backgrounds and depth to help inform decision makers within the NOAA satellite community.
HEMS operates in a demanding environment. They give an invaluable service to the public by providing crucial, safe, and efficient transportation of critically ill and injured patients to medical care facilities. While the contribution of HEMS is a profound component of the nation's medical infrastructure from an operational standpoint, it is a commercial aviation activity performed by Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) certificated air carrier operators. As such, operations must have the highest level of safety. The HEMS Tool is designed to provide a one-stop shop for weather information pertinent to the low-level, short-duration flights common among the HEMS community. By using a highly interactive and intuitive tool that focuses on small, localized regions, HEMS operators gain critical weather awareness to make their flights safer for crews and patients.
The HEMS Tool can overlay multiple fields of high resolution grids of critical weather parameters: ceiling, visibility, flight category, winds, relative humidity, temperature, icing severity, satellite, radar, G-AIRMETs, SIGMETs, METARs, TAFs, and PIREPs. All 3D data is interpolated to AGL altitudes and can be sliced horizontally on 1000 ft. intervals, up to 5000 ft. All data is time synchronized to go back, up to 6 hours and forward, up to 6 hours. The tool has high-resolution ESRI basemaps, including colored-relief and satellite. The user can also display navigational aids, airports, and heliports, for the entire United States. More detail is revealed as the user zooms in on the display.
The purpose of the visit was familiarization, as this was her first visit to NHC. NHC's branch chiefs, storm surge team lead, public affairs officer and Miami MIC helped the NHC deputy director host the Senator and her staffer Jean Toal-Eisen. The Senator was very engaged (and engaging) and perceptive. She praised NOAA/NWS from the start and took pride in helping move NCEP to its new facility. After an overview briefing, we took a walking tour through the NHC hurricane operations area, FEMA/NOAA Hurricane Liaison Team office (briefing by FEMA's HLT member), and CARCAH (Air Force hurricane hunters liaison) area as presented by that unit's chief. The Senator expressed interest in knowing what it takes to improve hurricane forecasting.
The Senator made it clear she still has two more years where she can be a factor. We discussed the importance of observations, the models, and how they, along with increasing computational capabilities, are what have driven us to better forecasts, especially for track. We shared with her the challenges of intensity forecasting and highlighted the promise of the Hurricane Forecast Improvement Project. We touched on the Joint Hurricane Testbed, about the role of weather satellites, and the importance of real-time communication, as well as the training we provide and our outreach and education program.
We were prepared for her questions about Hurricanes Katrina, Isabel (including her own experience) and Sandy (the impact for her area). We had an extended discussion about our work on storm surge and fielded questions she asked about the effect of sequestration and how the Sandy Supplemental has benefited us.
For Mr. Sienkiewicz's session talk, he described the evolution of a North Pacific extratropical cyclone and highlighted the predictive capabilities that OPC routinely sees in forecast operations. The instructive session was attended by approximately half of the conference attendees.
In preparation for hosting the Practical Weather Workshop, Mr. Sienkiewicz worked with Captain Rick Miller of the Maine Maritime and Sea Education Association and Captain Jonathan Kabak of the United States Merchant Marine Academy, to assemble an agenda appropriate for a wide spectrum of traditional vessel sailors. There were approximately 30 students for the two workshops. Participants ranged from trainees to some of the most seasoned captains from United States vessels. Mr. Sienkiewicz led exercises designed to help solidify the instructional goals and to clarify a variety of text and graphical products the OPC and National Hurricane Center (NHC) produce. The workshop was held in the Independence Seaport Museum at Penns Landing on the Delaware River in Philadelphia.
The late start, combined with the weak conditions, implies that El Niño is unlikely to exert significant impacts outside of the Tropics for the next few months. For example, historical precipitation patterns associated with El Niño show that only about 3 of the past 10 El Niño years exhibited above-average rainfall in California during March-April-May. Another way of looking at the historical relationships shows that ENSO has very little correlation to precipitation over North America during the spring or summer. Historically, El Niño is generally associated with suppressed tropical cyclone activity in the Atlantic and enhanced activity in the Eastern Pacific. However, El Niño is only one factor, and the CPC will release its forecasts for the 2015 North Atlantic and Eastern Pacific Hurricane Seasons on May 27th.
One focus of the experiment was the continued exploration of model micro-physics based snowfall forecasting methods. The idea is to use the explicit information coming from the model microphysics instead of making assumptions and using algorithms based on temperature and humidity to derive the snow amounts. Current algorithms are prone to error and are not necessarily what the model is actually predicting. Fig. 1 shows two new, different approaches using the amount of riming on hydrometeors and percent frozen precipitation applied to the North American Model (NAM) forecasts for the Jan 27-28 northeast U.S. Blizzard. These new approaches were found to be helpful in making snowfall forecasts, particularly in rain-to-snow transition zones. The testbed will continue to work with the Environmental Modeling Center (EMC) and others to implement these new approaches in operations, as well as expand to other modeling systems.
A second focus was expanding medium range probabilistic winter weather forecasts to include forecasts of heavy snow and freezing rain from Days 4-7. The experiment found that Day 4-7 probabilistic winter weather guidance was well received. Objective verification of the lower threshold of the probability of 1" showed positive probabilistic skill through Day 7. However, higher thresholds were not as skillful and more work is required. Thus, the Day 4-7 probabilistic winter weather outlook will use the 1" threshold and be a public experimental product for the 2015-16 season.
The MADIS system ingests data from NOAA data sources and non-NOAA providers, decodes data then encodes all of the observational data into a common format with uniform observational units and time stamps. Quality control (QC) checks are conducted and the integrated data sets are stored along with a series of flags indicating the results of the various QC checks. MADIS provides several methods for users to access the data to meet their needs. Users can request data from July of 2001, which is when MADIS was first available to the public, to present.
The NWS Initial Operational Capability (IOC) MADIS on Weather and Climate Operational Supercomputing System (WCOSS) was decommissioned on April 1. The operational instance of MADIS on WCOSS was turned off Research to Operations (R2O) process will continue for MADIS as users are transitioned to the operational servers. This will be finalized when GSD can turn off their servers at the end of May 2015.
The emergency managers and decision makers are local and state employees from the Gulf, Southeast, and Northeast United States coasts. The three FEMA L-0324 courses are conducted for emergency managers from each of those regions and the subject matter is tailored for each region. Several FEMA regional or national headquarter employees also participated. The classes are technically run by FEMA's Emergency Management Institute and funding is through FEMA's National Hurricane Program. Instructors include NHC Hurricane Specialists, FEMA regional hurricane program managers, and U.S. Army Corps of Engineer (USACE) personnel.
The participants learned about the tools available to make better evacuation decisions during tropical cyclone threats. They also learned about the dangers of storm surge and why they need to evacuate residents from coastal communities that are at risk of inundation from storm surge. The students gained an understanding of NHC forecast products, the hurricane evacuation study process, and about the Hurricane Evacuation (HURREVAC) decision support tool.
The overall objectives of the course have changed little from year to year, but the course has become more hands-on the past 5 to 10 years. Students are shown how the NHC makes tropical cyclone forecasts with several breakout sessions conducted to help them learn about NHC products, the hurricane evacuation study process, and hands-on time with the tools available to them to make better decisions. This year's training incorporated the new NHC storm surge products (Potential Storm Surge Flooding Map and prototype Storm Surge Watch/Warning Graphic).
The course began in 1992 and is extremely important given the large amount of turnover in the emergency management field from year to year. The states continually ask FEMA for more slots in the course and additional hurricane preparedness training courses to meet the needs of new coastal emergency managers. Besides the three courses held at NHC every January and February, the NHC and FEMA offer one-day training courses annually at the National Hurricane Conference and the Florida Governor's Hurricane Conference. A three-day version of the week-long Miami course is taken to one state each year. The NHC, FEMA, and USACE instructors will provide training the week of April 27 in Norfolk, Virginia for about 30 local and state emergency managers from Virginia.
This two-day seminar is required for sailors who plan on participating in the Annapolis-Newport race later this season, or in any other offshore race. The first day of the seminar is geared toward offshore racers and covers topics such as safety equipment, search and rescue communications, marine weather, sailing in heavy weather, and reacting to emergencies, such as man overboard situations. The second day is a seminar geared towards cruising instead of racing, but covers the same types of safety material discussed in the racing seminar.
The Safety At Sea Seminar has been held annually for the past 35 years, working to keep ocean racers and recreational sailors trained for preventing and handling emergencies at sea. The seminar's roots lie in the 1979 Fastnet Race disaster where a storm exceeded the severity of its forecast and wreaked havoc on the sailors and their vessels. Five boats sank, nearly 100 boats were knocked down, and 18 people died, including several rescuers.
Approximately 400 cruising sailors, racing sailors, and United States Naval Academy midshipmen took part in the seminar. Mr. Sienkiewicz and Mr. Vukits staffed a booth, distributed informational flyers, and answered many questions. They gave a formal weather safety seminar and co-hosted 3 one-hour panel discussions. Many sailors expressed their thanks for the marine services provided by National Weather Service (NWS) and for their participation in this important event.