>The National Weather Service (NWS), an agency of the National Oceanic and
>Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), has been in a modernization process
>for the last decade. "Many NOAA scientists have contributed research and
>development expertise to the systems the Weather Service uses, and NOAA's
>satellite and data management branches are critical elements in the weather
>services provided to the nation," said NOAA Administrator D. James Baker.
>These systems include Doppler Weather RADAR, the Automated Surface Observing
>System (ASOS), the Geostationary Operational Environmental Satellites (GOES)
>and the Advanced Weather Interactive Processing System (AWIPS). The
>installation of AWIPS was the final step to the modernization and provides
>a forecaster with data from all these systems as well as many other types
>of data. All of these systems have helped the NWS improve forecast accuracy
>and improve in the timeliness of severe weather and flood warnings. I believe
>John J. Kelley Jr., director of the NWS, put it best when he said, "Our
>vision is to be America's no-surprise weather service and we are well on
>Tom Evans has been with the NWS for 5 years and has experienced the "spin-up"
>efforts of the modernization process. He will be speaking about the new
>technology and how it helps the operational and research meteorologist.
>He will also discuss how the American people have benefited from the
Tom Evans began by putting out a bunch of literature about different programs that NOAA offers. He works in the Monterey office, which serves the 11 County Bay Area. His district goes has elevations up to 6000 feet, two Bays, and quite a few microclimates. There are about 116 Weather Forecast Offices (WFO) in the Governments network of equivalent size and responsibility.
Satellites (GOES 8 and GOES 10), ground based radar installations (NEXRAD Doppler radar), and Automated Surface Observing Systems are constantly feeding information into the world wide web, some of it updated on a minute by minute basis. In addition to this, they have a new computer system which allows the forecaster to display the information graphically on the console, turning on and off the various inputs (cloud photos, rainfall rate and totals, etc.) as desired. The military has been using a similar system for quite some time.
The weather service provides it's products to the general public, making them available through the web, and at Airports. Organizations like The Weather Channel and many weathermen take that input and use it as part of their weather forecasts. The new technology has made it possible for the weather service to improve forecasting of flash flooding from 58% to, 76% and lead times from 12 minutes to half an hour. This type of improvement has contributed to the public trust and resulted in measurable saving of lives, something they are very proud of.
Many interesting tidbits came out of the Q&A: The weather service costs the average taxpayer $4.00/year. Forecast coordination with Canada is much better than coordination with Mexico, because in Mexico the forecast is a Military Secret for some reason. One of the weather services inputs is a weather spotter program, which is staffed entirely by volunteers.