|NOAA's NWS Focus
April 21, 2003
Matt Barnes (left) and Ed
Holicky (right) joined Illinois State Climatologist
(center) to run and judge this year's Illinois Science
Olympiad, held April 5, 2003, at the University
Illinois in Champaign, IL. The Olympiad tested the
knowledge of weather and climate among participating
junior high school students. WFO Lincoln, IL, which
has supported the state Olympiad for several years,
has been invited to participate in the National Science
Olympiad, scheduled for May 10, 2003, in Columbus,
OH. Holicky and Barnes will be supervisors of the
weather and climate section of the national event,
which involves competition among the best junior
high school science teams across the Nation.
Dialog: Hydrometeorological Technician Positions
NWS Director Jack
Kelly has received several questions about the future of hydrometeorological
technical (HMT) positions. Rather than answer each HMT-related letter
individually, a collective response follows:
We have not determined if the role of the HMT will change. However,
several activities are underway which bear on this issue:
The Corporate Board's Workforce and Human Capital Committee
is examining all operational functions in a Weather Forecast Office
(WFO) performed by meteorologists or HMTs. The committee is considering
how to best accomplish these functions.
The Office of Climate, Water, and Weather Services' Training
Division is developing a course outline for a HMT cross-over program,
similar to the course offered during the NWS modernization. The
outline will be completed by the end of the summer. HMTs can review
the outline and indicate if they are interested in taking such
a class. If there is sufficient interest, the course will be developed
and made available in 2004.
On November 19, 2002, I asked WFO employees to provide their
views on the fundamental functions of the WFO five to ten years
from now. I hope HMTs who are concerned about this topic provided
Finally, with regard to the concern about the discrepancy between
duties expected and assigned to HMTs, MICs/HICs are expected to
use human resources in a way that maximizes efficiency of their
office, within the framework of each individual's position description.
Should you have concerns about your duties, please discuss them
directly with your MIC/HIC.
Jack Kelly, NWS Director
Have a question for the Director? Follow
this link for guidelines for submitting a Director's Dialog
To Save Lives:
Collaborative Efforts Yielding Consistent, Current Forecasts
Maximuk, WFO Pleasant Hill, MO
with contributions from Dave
Caldwell, National Centers for Environmental Prediction, and
Alan Rezek, WFO Charleston,
The NWS is working toward its vision of producing a meteorologically
consistent, always current, National Digital Forecast Database
(NDFD). The NDFD will provide the building blocks of information
for the NWS and external customers to prepare weather forecast
products consistently across several different media. The first
step in implementing this change from typing worded products
to establish three NDFD demonstration areas. These 17 offices
have been using the Interactive Forecast Preparation System
and preparing grids for the NDFD since January 2002. The forecasters
in these offices have uncovered many challenges and developed
proposed solutions as the NWS works toward preparing a collaborated,
consistent forecast database.
The next steps as we move toward a full NDFD will be to complete
a national Operational Readiness Demonstration (ORD) of IFPS this
summer, and to meet an Initial Operating Capability (IOC) this
fall. During the initial stages of implementation of the IFPS,
forecasters have been faced with the challenges of learning to
use new software tools, incorporating collaboration into their
forecast process, and creating a meteorologically consistent forecast
database across different areas and times of responsibility. Grappling
with the process changes has taken time, but significant progress
has been made.
All continental United States offices have begun to use IFPS
to prepare forecast grids and format traditional products, and
the initial set of NDFD grids are being collected. As offices
have moved down this path, the necessity of meteorological consistency
across forecast areas has become obvious, and Weather Forecast
Offices (WFOs) and National Centers for Environmental Prediction
(NCEP) have begun to work on ways to develop collaborative forecasts
across time and space.
In the early stages of the IFPS collaborative forecast process,
NCEP's Hydrometeorological Prediction Center (HPC) and the WFOs
began holding chat sessions to share and discuss information,
and the Storm Prediction Center (SPC) recently joined the process.
In addition, WFOs share Inter-site Coordination Grids so that
they may more easily view and work out differences across WFO
boundaries. The collaboration with NCEP centers combines the local
knowledge of the WFOs with the big-picture expertise of the HPC
and SPC forecasters. In addition, HPC has been working with the
WFOs to eliminate discontinuities along boundaries between adjacent
WFOs. As a result of the collaboration, HPC forecasters make adjustments
to their forecasts, and the WFOs, in turn, use HPC's expertise
to make modifications to their forecasts. By combining HPC knowledge
of the large scale and the WFOs' local expertise, the resultant
synergy is yielding better and more consistent NWS forecasts,
and moving the NWS closer to its strategic goal of a "seamless"
digital forecast. Early results of the collaboration process in
the NDFD demonstration areas have been excellent.
As we move toward implementation of the NDFD, other National
Centers will join in the collaborative forecast process, the SPC
will collaborate on severe local storms, the Tropical Prediction
Center on tropical storms, and the Ocean
Prediction Center on marine weather. The Climate Prediction
Center will also collaborate with WFOs on the Hazards Assessment,
which goes out to 14 days, and on longer-range climate products
out to one year.
The Devil is in the Details
When the "big picture" people facilitate a change in any organization,
it's working out and through the details that causes the most
anxiety and frustration for those going through the change. The
transition to IFPS and NDFD is no exception.
When first faced with the challenges of working together early
in the forecast process to form a consensus solution, forecasters
were sometimes overwhelmed. Historically, forecast offices have
coordinated their text products late in the forecast process in
an attempt to provide consistent forecasts across adjoining areas.
With brief text messages as the primary forecast product, forecast
differences or inconsistencies were difficult to discern, and
could be masked in generalized wording. When our offices are producing
gridded information in high temporal and spacial resolution, the
differences are apparent. Meeting the vision of a meteorologically
consistent forecast database requires a new level of collaboration
and coordination earlier in the forecast process, and across multiple
levels of the NWS. The transition to using IFPS to produce an
NDFD is one of the largest changes that has ever taken place in
the way forecasters work.
NWS forecasters are coming to grips with the vision for a national
digital forecast database. However, there are still philosophical
and technical issues which are contributing to some anxieties
and frustrations. Prior to developing detailed gridded forecasts,
offices acted with a great deal of autonomy. Forecasters attempted
to work out forecast details, but if a fully collaborative solution
was not gained, "broad brushed" text products were issued and
worded in a way that attempted to minimize the differences. In
some cases this even evolved into a friendly competition between
offices and forecasters. Collaboration has begun to create more
of a sense of an "NWS Forecast" rather than "my" forecast. But,
the transition is not complete. While we are working toward collaborating
all forecasts, it is not unusual to see differences in the forecast
grids that push the limits.
Another technical issue deals with the shear number of grids
offices have to produce. Offices are still learning how to best
manage their work to keep the NDFD current for our "pull" customers
who have requirements to access the latest forecast information
available to meet their schedules, and make it consistent across
forecast areas and through time. Some offices have adjusted work
shifts to focus around the greatest influx of new information
into the WFO or to address peak work load in providing information
to partners and customers. Offices are beginning to increase contributions
to the forecast process from the Hydrometeorological Technicians
(HMTs) by having them help with adaptive forecasting and updating
the short term forecast grids. Offices are sharing production
of forecast grids among multiple forecasters by breaking the grid
production process across time scales, or synoptic and mesoscale
domains. Many offices have broken the paradigm of starting with
a clean slate every time results from a model run or a national
guidance product are issued. Instead, they operate from the perspective
that the current forecast database is correct until there is sufficient
information available to initiate modifications to the grids that
are in question. NWS staff are using many different tactics to
meet the strategic goal of a high-resolution, up-to-date forecast
Forecasters are debating the level of detail required in the
gridded forecasts: How much resolution, especially in the mid-
and long-range forecast, is scientifically warranted? How much
effort should be placed on keeping short-term grids up to date
during rapidly changing weather conditions? How do we most effectively
use WFO staffing to meet these challenges? Forecasters are starting
meet these challenges head on, and feedback from customers, after
they have access to the forecast grids, will ultimately answer
many of these questions.
The Vision is Becoming a Reality
Forecasters are beginning to better visualize how the data
in the forecast grids will be used to provide more useful information
to our partners and customers. This information will provide
service far superior to the traditional text and limited graphical
suite. IFPS and NDFD give forecasters the opportunity to share
more meteorological information with partners and customers,
the opportunity to better support the evolving information extraction,
formatting, and decision support tools in the information technology
world. As experience in using IFPS to prepare forecasts increases,
provincialism and inter-office competition are declining, and
forecasters are taking a new sense of pride in working together
to develop one NWS consistent product suite.
Women in Meteorology and Hydrology Held in Geneva, Switzerland
Several women representing
the United States atmospheric sciences community joined the NWS
Director and delegates from about 100 countries at a world conference
on Women in Meteorology and Hydrology in Geneva, Switzerland, recently.
The focus of the March 24-27, 2003, conference at World Meteorological
Organization (WMO) Headquarters was to develop ways to improve
representation of women in WMO activities and in the work of national
meteorological and hydrologic services.
Topics covered during the conference included the cultural and
societal norms requiring women throughout the world to combine
and manage family and professional responsibilities, training,
education, and work environment policies and practices.
"It was a rewarding experience, meeting so many talented, diverse
women," said NWS Western Region Director Vickie Nadolski, who
gave a presentation on networking and mentoring. "The week in
Geneva at this conference left me with a renewed appreciation
for the freedom and opportunities that we, as Americans, often
take for granted."
The conference provided opportunities for representatives from
around the world to examine their experiences as professional
women working in meteorology, hydrology, and related fields.
Discussion of the contrasts and similarities in careers in the
transitioning, and developed countries led to agreement on strategies
to address common barriers and opportunities to increasing women's
The U.S. Delegation headed by
Jack Kelly, NWS Director and Permanent Representative of the U.S.
with the WMO, included: Mary Glackin, NOAA Assistant Administrator
for Program Planning and Integration, who served as co-chair of
the Conference; Nadolski; Dian Siedel, Research Meteorologist,
NOAA Office of Oceanic and Atmospheric Research; Fiona Horsfall,
Meteorologist, NWS Climate Services Division; and Christina del
Castillo, Program Analyst, NWS International Activities Office.
Maria Pirone, Vice President of Product and Marketing Development
of AER, Inc., served as the U.S. delegate representing the private
sector; and Sepi Yalda, Associate Professor of Meteorology at
Millersville University served as the U.S. delegate representing
A brown bag lunch planned for June 5, 2003, at noon in the
NOAA Library, Silver Spring, MD, will highlight the recommendations
and action plans of the conference and efforts to increase women's
participation in meteorology, hydrology, and related fields and
in WMO activities. For more information on the brown bag event
For more information on the Women's Conference or the WMO,
to Pocatello: International Students Get Weather Answers
An international grade
school in Singapore recently studied weather with help from a forecaster
at the Pocatello, ID, Weather Forecast Office (WFO).
During March 2003, WFO Pocatello Lead Forecaster Rick
Winther and his sister Debbie Winther, teacher at the Singapore
Overseas Family School, arranged for Rick to help the overseas
students with their meteorology studies.
As one of their assignments, the students were encouraged to
write letters to weather forecasting experts. The class, composed
of 20 students from 12 different countries, each wrote a
letter with several weather-related questions. The school's
unit covered a variety of cross-curricular activities involving
temperature, measurement, experiments, and comparing weather
around the world.
According to their teacher, Debbie Winther, the children particularly
enjoyed learning more about weather extremes and how to cope with
them. Their questions ranged from "Why do tornadoes form?" to
"What causes rainbows?" and "What is the difference between typhoons
and hurricanes?" WFO Pocatello answered the questions and Rick
Winther e-mailed the responses back to his sister at the school.
"Thanks for taking the time out of your busy schedule to e-mail
letters to the kids," wrote Debbie. "They really enjoyed listening
to and reading the answers from you. I attached each letter
their original 'postcard' for them to keep."
Development Program (FDP) Available Online
A web-based forecaster
training program is now available for interns and others.
The NWS Forecaster
Development Program (FDP) is a structured training program
designed for meteorologist interns. The program describes the
professional development and career progression of interns to
the General Forecaster position at a Weather Forecast Office (WFO),
National Centers for Environmental Prediction (NCEP) Service Centers,
or NWS national and regional headquarters. Even though the FDP
is designed for interns, other employees are encouraged to utilize
the training relevant to their jobs or interests.
"The FDP is an important part of the early training of new
forecasters, providing them with the background, mission, and
culture of the
National Weather Service," said John Vogel, NWS Training Center
For the first years (generally 3-5 years), newly-hired interns
perform the duties of Hydrometeorological Technicians (HMTs)
participating in the FDP. The training program is divided into
three phases based on the Professional Development Series (PDS).
For Phase I, interns participate in training that focuses on:
1) the NWS Mission, 2) Operational Systems and Data Management,
3) Forecast Procedures, and 4) Customers and Partnerships. In
Phase II, interns complete training which emphasizes meteorological
and hydrological forecasting and applications. Phase III focuses
on professional development with interns participating in a
of activities such as conducting a local research project, working
as a program focal point, or getting involved in local outreach
Directive 20-103, entitled "Forecaster Development Program
Training," describes the FDP training program. Specific information
about the NWS Forecaster Development Program is found on the
NWSTC web site at http://www.nwstc.noaa.gov/nwstrn/d.ntp/fdp/.
Statistics Document Updated
NOAA has posted its first
revision to Economic
Statistics for NOAA, a compendium of economic statistics relevant
to NOAA's mission and programs. The statistics serve as a common
reference to the economic impacts and benefits of NOAA programs
and provide a consistent set of economic data for NOAA management
and staff to use when preparing for Congressional visits and testimony,
budget preparation, speeches, and other external events.
The NWS economic impact statistics were compiled and verified
by the Strategic Planning and Policy Office at NWS Headquarters.
If you have any additions to offer, send them to us at NWS.Focus@noaa.gov.
Be sure to include the original source information (where published,
when, author if known, and any other pertinent information so
the information can be verified).
Also On the Web...Newest
AWARE Report Available Online
The Winter/Spring AWARE
Report is now available online. Greg Mandt's lead article explains
how digital services are the 'minivan' of the National Weather
Service. Check it out at http://www.nws.noaa.gov/om/aware.PDF.
a look at other NWS news, as submitted for the NOAA
here to take a look at NOAA-wide employee news, as posted
in the latest issue of AccessNOAA
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