AWIPS II:  Coming Soon to a Workstation Near You

Editors Note:  This article is the first in a series that will introduce the overall AWIPS II development process, timeline, and the people behind the scenes deploying the software.

Soon, the National Weather Service will begin deploying AWIPS II, the foundation for many enhancements to our operations.

AWIPS is the Advanced Weather Interactive Processing System (AWIPS).  It is the information processing, display, and telecommunications system that integrates all meteorological and hydrologic data, and all satellite and radar data, and enables our forecasters to prepare and issue timely, accurate weather forecasts and warnings. AWIPS was initially fielded in the NWS during the modernization of the 1990s and was declared operational in the summer of 2000. 

"We are going to energize the weather community with AWIPS II, both outside and inside the NWS by allowing for more rapid infusion of new science and applications into operations."

Don Berchoff,
Director of the NWS Office of
Science and Technology 

Managers are calling the current transformation of AWIPS software to AWIPS II a significant step forward for NWS.  But in terms of service improvements, what are we going to see when we are done? 

Here are just a few things we will see.  AWIPS II will make the NWS more responsive to customer needs.  It will cut down the development time for new products by 50 percent.  It will give our forecasters the technology to have direct and integrated visual collaboration with emergency managers.  It will allow streamlined generation of products in industry-standard formats.  It will allow the NWS to move beyond the text world of the 1950's, to exploit the internet, and most importantly, to take advantage of the emerging technology standards to allow external customers to benefit from the range and volume of data and information we produce. 

"We are going to energize the weather community with AWIPS II, both outside and inside the NWS by allowing for more rapid infusion of new science and applications into operations." said Don Berchoff, Director of the NWS Office of Science and Technology (OST). 

AWIPS II will become a force multiplier for science infusion because there are many more developers in the field and the labs, by a factor of four or five to one, that can contribute.  "We want to leverage the full range of software talent within the weather service to get new science, new applications, and new ideas into the baseline quicker," said Berchoff.  "And we aren't going to stop there." 

"We want to open this up to NOAA labs and start engaging partners such as NASA and  academia to establish a community of contributors by giving them the tools to develop applications in the new environment.  If they're doing science and applications within the AWIPS II architecture, their work will transition into operations faster and at a much lower cost."

According to Berchoff, there's more good news.  "The transformation will not include the same steep learning curve forecasters experienced going from the Automation of Field Operations and Services (AFOS) system, since only the underlining software architecture is changing."  Though the AWIPS II User Interfaces will be very similar to those in AWIPS, the guts underneath will be entirely different, and the migration is seeking to preserve the current look and feel.  The intention is not to alter current forecast operations when AWIPS II is deployed.  The biggest difference forecasters will experience are improved displays due to greater sharing of data between applications. 

The AWIPS II Software Development Process

For the development of the baseline software, the NWS is taking a stepwise approach with 6 to 9 month Task Orders focused on specific topics.  Eight software development tasks have been executed so far.  The final development task order will be Task Order 11.  It is to be delivered in the fourth quarter of fiscal year 2009.

With each Task Order, the government runs the software through a series of increasingly detailed tests.  Initial side-by-side testing of the system will be conducted at several locations over the next year.   Prior to national deployment, the NWS will run a formal six-month Operational Test and Evaluation (OT&E).  

In addition to the baseline software, many local AWIPS applications have been developed by Weather Forecast Offices, River Forecast Centers, and National Centers to satisfy unique user requirements.  Migrating these applications into the new system is a regional responsibility with support from OST and the National Core Local Application Development Team (NCLADT), a team composed of developers from field offices.  The NCLADT will develop a library of functions that can be used across all local applications.

AWIPS II Training

Training for AWIPS II will be undertaken in several phases.  Currently, the NWS is training local application developers with distance learning and hands-on exercises.  Training modules will be developed for application focal points.  Additional focal point training will also be developed and made available online after the final software delivery.  The focal point training is centered on the configuration and localization of baseline applications in AWIPS II and will be delivered in time to support the field sites during the AWIPS II OT&E. 

AWIPS system administrator training will be developed once the AWIPS II system is completed.  System administrators will be provided developmental learning experiences on the AWIPS II system as incremental software builds are available.  System administrator deployment training will be available to support field OT&E sites starting in October 2009. 

OS&T is publishing information about AWIPS II development through several avenues: the AWIPS Technology Infusion web site, the AWIPS II Topic of the Week (to join the mail list send an e-mail to, presentations at regional conferences, and, now, through a series of NWS Focus articles.