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NOAA's NWS Focus
March 31, 2003
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CONTENTS formating spacer graphic
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- NWS Posts Responses to Employee Comments for NOAA Program Review formating spacer graphic
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- New Guide Available for Wind Damage Assessments formating spacer graphic
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- Recent Study Identifies Digital Forecast Database as Key Piece in Future Partnerships formating spacer graphic
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- President Adds Locality Pay to 2003 Federal Raise formating spacer graphic
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- Working Together to Save Lives: Advanced Weather Spotter Training Session Draws Hundreds formating spacer graphic
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- NOAA Homeland Security Establishes Secure Emergency Web Site for Employees formating spacer graphic
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- On The Calendar formating spacer graphic
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Sam Lashley, Senior Meteorologist at the Northern Indiana Weather Forecast

Sam Lashley, Senior Meteorologist at the Northern Indiana Weather Forecast Office, details the Skywarn program at a recent advanced spotter conference. See story below. Photo by Keith Miller Photography(c).


NWS Posts Responses to Employee Comments for NOAA Program Review

The NWS was asked to respond to 45 employee comments made to Undersecretary of Commerce for Oceans and Atmosphere and NOAA Administrator, retired Navy Vice Adm. Conrad Lautenbacher, Jr., Ph.D., when he initiated a NOAA-Wide Program Review.

Read the NWS responses here. You can also find the document of comments and responses on the NWS Employee Best Practices web site.

Each NWS response describes the current status and, where appropriate, actions taken or planned in response to the recommendation.

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New Guide Available for Wind Damage Assessments

A new guide for conducting wind damage assessments is available to help NWS staff assess damage from a violent tornado.

"A Guide to F-Scale Damage Assessment," was developed by the NWS Office of Climate, Water, and Weather Services based on a recommendation from the service assessment of the April 28, 2002, LaPlata, MD, tornado outbreak.

The service assessment team suggested the need for a standard reference since Weather Forecast Office (WFO) staff only receive training on assessing wind damage one time, and because violent F4 and F5 tornadoes are extremely rare, people have very few first-hand opportunities to view storm damage of this magnitude.

The new 101-page, full-color guide has been posted in PDF format on the Warning Coordination Meteorologist (WCM) Resource Center web site to give WCMs and other NWS staff immediate access to the information before the printed version becomes available later in the spring.

"I am very excited about this new guide, which was prepared to help train and assist our field WCMs in performing more accurate and reliable F-scale ratings and post-storm damage surveys," said Stephan Kuhl, National WCM Program Manager who coordinated NWS Headquarters efforts in developing the guide. "NWS personnel who assess post-storm damage to determine final wind storm intensity will find this guide extremely useful."

The guide was developed through close collaboration between the NWS, private sector meteorologists, wind engineers, and the academic community.

Kuhl said 500 copies of the guide are being printed and should be sent to Regional Headquarters by early May. Each region will then forward copies to local WFOs.

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Recent Study Identifies Digital Forecast Database as Key Piece in Future Partnerships

By Wendy Levine
NWS Strategic Planning and Policy Office

"The National Digital Forecast Database [NDFD] is a major undertaking with major benefits."

This statement was made by John Armstrong, Chair of the National Research Council's (NRC's) Committee on Partnerships in Weather and Climate Services, at the February 2003 annual meeting of the American Meteorological Society in Long Beach, CA. Armstrong briefed the results of a NOAA-commissioned study performed by the NRC to examine the public-private-academic partnership for providing weather and climate services in the United States.

The report concludes that the partnership is "basically sound, functioning well, and serving the needs of the Nation," and recognizes the key role that NDFD will play in future provision of NWS products and services, as well as the advantages NDFD will bring to our private sector partners.

One of the NRC's basic recommendations is for the NWS to continue activities essential to its mission, including unrestricted access to publicly-funded forecasts and related information products in a timely manner and at the lowest possible cost to users. The NDFD will improve the NWS's ability to provide forecasts in convenient forms, including digital, tabular, image, graphics, and other types of visual displays.

The NRC also recommends that NWS make its data and products available in Internet-accessible digital form. For the first time, human-generated meteorological forecasts will be available via the Internet in the NDFD:

  • NDFD is Internet-accessible;
  • the data are in a widely-recognized standard; and
  • the data can be used by all interested parties in the weather and climate enterprise.

"The NDFD will allow the private meteorological sector to flourish," said Bob Glahn, NWS's Interactive Forecast Preparation (IFPS) Program Manager. "The database will provide 'raw material' for a substantial increase in the number and types of products and services that can be produced and marketed to those who require specialized services." The NRC report asserts that by providing access to digital data not currently available in standard products, the NDFD will improve the ability of all the sectors to produce high-quality weather services, particularly as temporal and spatial resolution increases.

The IFPS and NDFD present enormous opportunities, but they also present a unique challenge. According to the NRC, the NWS headquarters and regional managers should learn to balance respect for local innovation and creativity with greater control over activities that affect the public-private partnership. Such an activity might be the implementation of a new product or service. The existence of IFPS and a digital forecast database fosters local creativity for developing new products and services - this is a wonderful asset, but one which must be carefully managed. NWS Directive 10-102 is a start to managing this process.

One of the objectives of the NRC study is to assess the impact of scientific and technological advances on the public-private-academic partnership. According to the NRC study, the NDFD is improving access to data and forecasts in digital form and in databases, offering much flexibility in how these data are used. Through the database, users will be able to: download only the information they need; combine different data; and manipulate the data to form new data and products.

"In the future, the NDFD may include observations and analyses, as well as forecasts from local offices and NCEP," predicts Glahn. The study report concludes that these improvements will greatly increase the number of opportunities for the private sector to provide value-added products and create new services.

The use of IFPS in operations and our ability to produce a quality NDFD for our users, will help NWS to play an important role in the critical partnerships supporting the U.S. weather and climate enterprise. IFPS and NDFD are fostering improvements both in NWS products and services, as well as advancing the opportunities for our partners. The net effect is sure to be seen as positive to our broad spectrum of users.

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President Adds Locality Pay To 2003 Federal Raise

President Bush signed an Executive order on March 21, 2003, to implement retroactive locality pay increases costing approximately 1 percent of payroll. Pay will be retroactively adjusted from the pay period which began January 12, 2003. The Office of Personnel Management has posted new 2003 pay tables to reflect the increase.

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Working Together to Save Lives:
Advanced Weather Spotter Training Session Draws Hundreds

More than 300 people attended the March 15, 2003, Indiana-Michigan-Ohio Skywarn Association's Advanced Weather Spotter Training Session in Elkhart, IN. Thanks to efforts of the Association and the Northern Indiana Weather Forecast Office (WFO), participants learned more about severe weather and how their reports aid NWS's warning decision process.

WFO Senior Meteorologist Sam Lashley spoke about the warning process and how timely and accurate Skywarn reports lead to more timely and accurate severe weather warnings. Video of a simulated severe weather event provided a unique perspective on the interaction between the storm spotter and the NWS, including the need for timely and accurate spotter reports.

Other featured speakers in the day-long session included Charles A. Doswell, Senior Research Scientist Cooperative Institute for Mesoscale Meteorological Studies; David Arnold, Associate Professor Ball State University; and Chris Novy, an amateur radio operator and seasoned storm chaser. Severe weather awareness and safety were recurring themes during the presentations.

Warning Coordination Meteorologist Steve Eddy and Senior Meteorologist Patrick Murphy assisted the Skywarn group in planning the event.

"This event helped educate people about the valuable contributions Skywarn spotters make to the NWS and we were able to show our appreciation for their dedication," Murphy said. "The Veterans Day weekend tornado outbreak is a prime example we cite to emphasize how timely reports by Skywarn spotters help us focus our warning decision-making process."

Murphy said the NWS educated the experienced spotters on the aspects of NWS severe weather operations and the contributions of volunteer Skywarn observers. An NWS exhibit showcased NOAA Weather Radio, spotter and safety brochures, and a simulated tornado in a box. A dramatic slide show featuring tornado footage and damage photos from the Veterans Day weekend tornado outbreak drew many to the NWS booth.

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NOAA Homeland Security Establishes Secure Emergency Web Site for Employees

A new NOAA Homeland Security site is now online at for NOAA employees only. Employees need their NOAA user name and e-mail password to visit the site for emergency direction, preparedness guides, up-to-date advisories regarding risk and the operating status of the federal government. The site also provides important links to the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, the Federal Emergency Management Agency, and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, among others.

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Take a look at other NWS news, as submitted for the NOAA Weekly Report

Click here to take a look at NOAA-wide employee news, as posted in the latest issue of AccessNOAA

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