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NOAA's NWS Focus
April 21, 2003
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CONTENTS formating spacer graphic
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Director's Dialog with Jack Kelly:
Hydrometeorological Technician Positions

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- Working Together To Save Lives:
Collaborative Efforts Yielding Consistent, Current Forecasts
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- Conference on Women in Meteorology and Hydrology Held in Geneva, Switzerland formating spacer graphic
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- From Singapore to Pocatello: International Students Get Weather Answers formating spacer graphic
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- NWS Forecaster Development Program (FDP) Available Online formating spacer graphic
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- NOAA Economic Statistics Document Updated formating spacer graphic
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- Also On the Web...Newest AWARE Report Available Online formating spacer graphic
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- On The Calendar formating spacer graphic
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Matt Barnes (left) and Ed Holicky (right) joined Illinois State Climatologi

Matt Barnes (left) and Ed Holicky (right) joined Illinois State Climatologist Jim Angel (center) to run and judge this year's Illinois Science Olympiad, held April 5, 2003, at the University of 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.

 


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Director's 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 input.

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 question.

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Working Together To Save Lives:
Collaborative Efforts Yielding Consistent, Current Forecasts

By Lynn Maximuk, WFO Pleasant Hill, MO
with contributions from Dave Caldwell, National Centers for Environmental Prediction, and Alan Rezek, WFO Charleston, WV

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 was to establish three NDFD demonstration areas. These 17 offices have been using the Interactive Forecast Preparation System (IFPS) 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.

Collaboration Grows

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 database.

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 product suite. IFPS and NDFD give forecasters the opportunity to share more meteorological information with partners and customers, and 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.

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Conference on 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 developing, transitioning, and developed countries led to agreement on strategies to address common barriers and opportunities to increasing women's professional participation.

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 academia.

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 contact Fiona.Horsfall@noaa.gov.

For more information on the Women's Conference or the WMO, contact Christina.delCastillo@noaa.gov.

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From Singapore 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 weather unit covered a variety of cross-curricular activities involving temperature, measurement, experiments, and comparing weather conditions 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 to their original 'postcard' for them to keep."

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NWS Forecaster 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 (NWSTC) Director.

For the first years (generally 3-5 years), newly-hired interns perform the duties of Hydrometeorological Technicians (HMTs) while 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 variety of activities such as conducting a local research project, working as a program focal point, or getting involved in local outreach programs.

NWS Procedural 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/.

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NOAA Economic 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).

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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.

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

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