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NOAA's NWS Focus
April 6, 2005 View Printer Friendly Version

Straight Talk-Name Issue
- Quake Reinforces Need for Global Tsunami Warning System
- Alaska, Hawaii Conduct Statewide Tsunami Warning Tests
- NOAA Offices Encouraged to Support, Participate in Earth Day Activities
- NOAA Meteorologists and Kentucky Educational Television Go Live to Serve Citizens
- Northeast Conference Spurs Collaboration Among Meteorologists
- WFO Representatives Experience Controlled Burn Up-Close
- Employee Milestones
- Snapshots

On March 31, 2005, James Lee (at podium) and David Manning of the Sterling , VA , forecast office conducted a SKYWARN training session in the NOAA Auditorium in Silver Spring , MD. More than 175 NOAA employees, local government officials, and members of the public registered to attend. On March 31, 2005, James Lee (at podium) and David Manning of the Sterling, VA, forecast office conducted a SKYWARN training session in the NOAA Auditorium in Silver Spring, MD. More than 175 NOAA employees, local government officials, and members of the public registered to attend.

Straight Talk:
Name Issue

By General D.L. Johnson
NWS Director

Rumor control -- I'm sure most, if not all of you, have heard the talk about NOAA changing our name. If you look around NOAA, you will find that all line office names have been modified to support NOAA's corporate identity. Back in January at our AMS All-Hands meeting, I told our employees that I am proud to support NOAA's National Weather Service and think our name gives us the best of both worlds -- a stronger link to our parent agency while maintaining our esprit de corps and customer name familiarity.

A proposal for a new NOAA Communications Office, including recommended policies for line office names, has been presented to the NOAA Executive Panel (NEP) and is working its way up to the NOAA Executive Council (NEC). V. Adm. Lautenbacher agreed with the general approach of "NOAA's National Weather Service" in different fora -- however, we will not have policy on this issue until the NOAA Communications Office proposal passes through the NEC. As a member of the NEC, I will be part of this process.

In the meantime, we have life-saving work to do. The convective season is just beginning. Soon after, hurricane season and wildfires.

This is where we must shine -- doing the mission and doing it exceptionally well.

We're part of the NOAA team and I know that you recognize everyone's contributions that help us carry out our mission. Let's pull our collective energies together to get the mission done -- we protect lives.

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Quake Reinforces Need for Global Tsunami Warning System

A large undersea earthquake off the coast of Indonesia March 28, 2005, triggered the first big tsunami alert since the December 26, 2004, tsunami devastated nations in and around the Indian Ocean. The March 28 earthquake reportedly killed more than 1,000 people, but did not generate a major destructive tsunami, which could have caused significantly more loss of life.

Steps taken since the December 26 disaster allowed for a better exchange of information between NOAA and countries under the threat of a potential tsunami, but many hours of waiting for confirmation highlights the need for a more robust tsunami detection system.

The NOAA Pacific Tsunami Warning Center in Ewa Beach, HI, received notification of the 8.7 quake in northern Sumatra eight minutes after it occurred, analyzed the data to determine location and magnitude, and issued a tsunami bulletin 11 minutes later. PTWC alerted the U.S. State Department, which then sent messages to the U.S. Embassy in Thailand, Myanmar, Indonesia, India, Bangladesh, Singapore, Malaysia, Sri Lanka, Maldives, and Mauritius.

Also, within 35 minutes of the quake, NOAA's NWS Pacific Region Headquarters notified the consulates of India and Indonesia who then informed emergency management in those and surrounding countries.

"We knew quickly about the earthquake, its approximate magnitude and location, yet it took hours to determine if, in fact, it created a tsunami," said Brig. Gen. D.L. Johnson, U.S. Air Force (Ret.), NOAA's NWS Director. "The world needs more observing systems to issue timely, accurate, and focused warnings."

"We believe that with a worldwide tsunami detection and warning system in place—one that includes Deep-ocean Assessment and Recording of Tsunami, or DART, buoys along major known subduction zones, along with real-time water level monitoring along coastlines —the NOAA Pacific Tsunami Warning Center could have had a deep ocean measurement for this event in one hour, and based on that data, the warning message would probably have been canceled," Johnson said.

Officials from India visiting NOAA's NWS Headquarters during the quake were impressed with the information sharing that occurred, said NWS International Activities Director Rob Masters.

After being told of the quake, they learned though phone contact with their offices in India that the nations within the region had already been notified by formal and informal channels by the PTWC and US State Department Operations center. The Indians were part of a delegation visiting various NOAA offices in conjunction with NOAA's support to the U.S. Agency for International Development Disaster Management Support Project for India. Delegation experts in seismology and disaster communications also are visiting the PTWC to discuss warning and communication systems, and other offices in Miami, FL, and Norman, OK.

Read more in the NOAA news story here.

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Alaska, Hawaii Conduct Statewide Tsunami Warning Tests

NOAA's NWS teamed up with state and local officials in Alaska and Hawaii last week to conduct statewide tests of the tsunami warning communications system.

In Alaska, live tsunami warning codes, rather than a test code, were broadcast on television stations statewide.

"The live tsunami warning test was successfully heard throughout the state and was an excellent example of effective teamwork," said Laura Furgione, Alaska Region Director. "Our residents can rest assured knowing their safety and well being are being monitored by federal, state, and local officials."

Officials will evaluate the success of the test and correct any problems uncovered. People in coastal areas were asked to monitor their normal media sources at the time of the test and report afterwards via an Internet address given in the test message.

The test was part of Tsunami Awareness Week, proclaimed by Governor Frank Murkowski as March 27 - April 2. The week coincided with the anniversary of the Great Alaskan Earthquake—a devastating 9.2 magnitude earthquake that triggered deadly tsunamis in Alaska 41 years ago on Good Friday, March 27, 1964. Read the full NOAA news story on the Alaska test here.

The Hawaii exercise was based on a scenario of a large teletsunami (a tsunami which causes damage far away from its source) generated by a magnitude 8.0 earthquake in the Aleutian Islands, similar to the one of April 1, 1946. A tsunami warning system has been in place in Hawaii since 1949. To stay tsunami prepared, Hawaii holds annual drills and public awareness activities, such as Tsunami Awareness Month.

"One of the best ways a community can prepare is by participating in NOAA's TsunamiReady Program," said Charles McCreery, director of the Richard H. Hagemeyer Pacific Tsunami Warning Center.

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NOAA Offices Encouraged to Support, Participate in Earth Day Activities

Earth Day 2005 will be celebrated on April 22 and NOAA and the NWS encourage offices throughout the Nation to participate in local Earth Day activities.

Earth Day began in 1970 as a means to promote environmental stewardship. In past years, NOAA personnel have participated in a range of events from hosting local outreach booths, performing environmental clean ups, and tree plantings. NOAA also has recognized local environmental heroes.

"It's not too late for our employees to take part in an Earth Day activity," said Stephan Kuhl, National Warning Coordination Meteorologist (WCM) Program Leader. "Earth Day provides a great opportunity to highlight 'NOAA in Your Neighborhood' by our WFOs working with other local NOAA Offices on coordinated outreach events. 'NOAA in Your Neighborhood' encourages the establishment of new collaborative efforts among NOAA agencies in the areas of outreach, data sharing, research, forecasting, and cross-agency training."

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NOAA Meteorologists and Kentucky Educational Television Go Live to Serve Citizens

On February 28, 2005, representatives of the Louisville and Jackson, KY, Weather Forecast Offices (WFOs) participated in an expert panel during a call-in show on Kentucky Educational Television (KET) in Lexington, KY.

The one-hour program, entitled Meteorologists...Keeping Us Safe, was broadcast live on public television across all of Kentucky and southern Indiana. Ted Funk, Science and Operations Officer at WFO Louisville, KY, and Shawn Harley, Meteorologist-In-Charge at WFO Jackson, KY, were the NOAA members on the panel. The other participants were meteorologists Chris Bailey, WKYT Channel 27, and Bernadette Woods, WLEX Channel 18, both in Lexington, and moderator Bill Goodman from KET. WFO Louisville Warning Coordination Meteorologist Norm Reitmeyer and Service Hydrologist Mike Callahan answered many phone calls behind the scenes.

The show highlighted severe weather and flash flood awareness and safety, although a wide array of topics were discussed on air including the importance of the NWS-media partnership.

"This was an excellent outreach event to enhance our partnership with local media, and to provide valuable meteorological and safety information to the citizens of Kentucky and southern Indiana," Funk said.

Harley added, "This type of cooperative event with our television partners is vital in helping keep the public informed and safe."

The show was a big hit with much better viewership and more questions than in years past. The next day on the air, Goodman said, "I've been doing this weather call-in for 5 or 6 years and don't think I've ever felt better about the conversation and the information we were able to deliver. We answered a lot of questions, and at the end of the hour I was still holding a handful we didn't get too." Janice Grimes, a viewer in western Kentucky, wrote in the next day, "My family and I just finished watching your meteorologist call-in show and we loved it! My two boys, ages 11 and 10, were fascinated with the information."

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Northeast Conference Spurs Collaboration Among Meteorologists

By Chris Vaccaro
NOAA/NWS Public Affairs

Many could hope for a late-winter conference to be held in a mild climate such as Miami, but for the 30th annual Northeast Storm Conference it was more appropriate for Burlington, VT, to set the scene.

Hosted by the Lyndon State College chapter of the American Meteorological Society and National Weather Association, the March 18-20, 2005, conference highlighted recent research and historical analysis of weather events pertaining to the northeastern United States, especially during the winter season.

Attendees represented meteorologists from NOAA's National Weather Service, other government agencies, academia, private industry, and media. NOAA National Weather Service Forecast Offices from Marquette, MI, to Gray, ME, southward to Sterling, VA, were represented by approximately 17 employees.

"The Northeast Storm Conference provides a unique opportunity to bring together meteorologists from National Weather Service offices and television stations all across the Northeast and, for that matter, many other areas of the nation," said Josh Nichols, Meteorologist at WHEC-TV in Rochester, NY. The forum "helps to promote better working relations between the private and public sectors," he added, "and allows both meteorologists in the media and meteorologists in the National Weather Service to interact and discuss issues that ultimately effect and or influence how the public can utilize critically important weather information."

Presentations and poster sessions provided the avenue for NWS meteorologists to share and learn from information derived from case studies of significant weather events. Lessons learned can help forecasters recognize similar situations in the future and improve weather predictions.

A panel discussion on careers in meteorology also was featured during the conference. Among those addressing a full room of college students and aspiring meteorologists was Paul Sisson, Science and Operations Officer at the Burlington, VT, Weather Forecast Office.

Abstracts of several presentations by NWS meteorologists are available on the web site of the Eastern Region Headquarters Scientific Service Division:

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WFO Representatives Experience Controlled Burn Up-Close

By Shawn Harley and Bonnie Terrizzi
WFO Jackson, KY

Two representatives of the Jackson, KY, Weather Forecast Office (WFO) recently got first-hand experience with how the Forest Service conducts a controlled burn.

On March 18, 2005, Administrative Services Assistant Tabitha Brewer and Meteorologist-In-Charge Shawn Harley of WFO Jackson, KY, traveled to the Red River Gorge to observe a prescribed burn conducted by the National Forest Service. Allen Hubbs, with the Forest Service, served as their host.

The main purpose of a controlled burn is to restore the historic role of fire in the forest, and to reduce the small fuels, like leaf litter, that would be on the forest floor. Hubbs explained the goal of the Forest Service is to restore the forest to the state it was believed to have been in around 1400, or before European contact, and while there was still a substantial Native American population in the area. In this particular prescribed burn, the fire was supposed to kill a lot of the white pine saplings which compete with the oak trees, and also to help reduce the pine beetle population. Even though it is usually too green to conduct prescribed burns after April, the Forest Service cannot conduct prescribed burns after April 30 as smoke disrupts the breeding season for endangered bat species.

Nearly seven hundred thousand acres in eastern Kentucky is taken up by the Daniel Boone National Forest. Some of the jewels of east Kentucky, such as Natural Bridge State Park, Red River Gorge, and Cumberland Falls, lie within the boundaries of the Daniel Boone. This burn was conducted along the ridge that leads to Chimney Rock, one of the most scenic vantage points within Kentucky's beautiful Red River Gorge.

"We were able to get close up views of the burn along the gravel road that runs to Chimney Rock, and were also able to get more distant views from the road that leads to Sky Bridge," said Harley.

Weather observations taken in the field every half hour were a vital part of the operation throughout the day. The weather observations were broadcast on the radios that were carried by all Forest Service personnel. The Forest Service used sling psychrometers that are part of the belt weather kits carried by the Forest Service personnel to determine temperature and humidity. Every prescribed burn has a burn plan. Among other things, the burn plan lists the weather criteria that would shut down the burn, and includes such items as humidity, wind speeds, wind directions, transport winds, and temperatures. Certain criteria also must be met for the dispersion index which is defined as the transport wind in meters per second, times the mixing height in meters divided by 100.

On prescribed burns it is very important to determine what the smoke will do. On this day the 20-foot wind was forecast to be from the southeast at 4 to 6 mph and the transport wind was forecast to be 5 to 10 mph from the south. These speeds and directions were critical for this burn site. The Forest Service did not want the smoke to be carried across the Mountain Parkway or the portion of KY Route 715 which runs along the ridge tops. If the forecast or observed wind direction had been from a direction which would carry the smoke across these roads, the burn could be postponed. Also, if the transport wind was forecast to be 15 mph or higher the burn could have been postponed.

According to the Forest service, in this particular case the burn was being conducted far enough from homes or roads that it was best if the smoke dispersed a little, but did not get carried too far from the burn site.

"We spent an interesting day seeing first hand how one of our customers utilizes our forecasts," Harley said. "It was very apparent that our planning forecasts and spot forecasts are critical in the entire prescribed burn process, from planning, to execution, to completion."

Click here to see photographs of the controlled burn.

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Fourth Graders Learn About Major Flooding

NWS Southeast River Forecast Center (SERFC) employees recently traveled to Dalton, GA, to teach almost 1,700 Fourth Graders from the Coosa River, Tallapoosa River, and Tennessee River basins about the hazards of major flooding. Using a desktop river flood model of a community built along a flood-prone stream, SERFC employees Mark Fuchs, Jonathan Atwell, and Brad Gimmestad explained the effects of major flooding during the 2005 Children's Water Festival, held at Dalton State College on March 8, 2005.

SERFC Development of Operations Hydrologist Brad Gimmestad advises a 4th grader to SERFC Development of Operations Hydrologist Brad Gimmestad advises a 4th grader to "Turn Around - Don't Drown" at the Georgia Children's Water Festival.

The Festival was comprised of numerous classroom presentations spread around the campus, and a series of shorter presentations and demonstrations (including the NWS demonstration) in the lower level of the college's student center, called the Water Jamboree Activity Hall. Presenters came from a variety of water resource agencies, universities and colleges, environmental groups, and private businesses. The Activity Hall gave groups of 70 to 200 students the opportunity to have fun while learning about the various aspects of water management, ecology, conservation, and safety. Each large group was then broken down to groups varying from just a few students to as many as 20. Children would spend 3-5 minutes at each activity and come, either as a group or individually, to the SERFC exhibit. This allowed these students to focus on questions and topics such as:

  • Which building would incur the greatest flood damage and why?
  • Should a vehicle attempt to cross a bridge with water standing or flowing over it? Why or why not? The booth photo of the turned over car in the stream served as compelling evidence of what can happen when the wrong decision is made.
  • provides all the river and flood information you may need, along with weather forecasts and warnings of severe thunderstorms, tornadoes, and hurricanes.

Area teachers attending the festival voiced high praise of the variety of information provided in the day-long event.

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Employee Milestones

  • Click here to see NEW APPOINTMENTS/TRANSFERS to NWS through March 31, 2005.
  • Click here to see RETIREMENTS/DEPARTURES from NWS through March 31, 2005.

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Click here for a look at photos we've received from around the NWS

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