New Weather Observing System to Aid Forecasters During Winter Olympics

A new weather observing system developed at NOAA's Forecast Systems Laboratory (FSL) will make its public debut during the XIX Olympic Winter Games. The system called ground-based GPS-Met, uses signals from the Global Positioning System (GPS) to measure the total amount of precipitable water vapor (PWV) in the atmosphere with unprecedented accuracy under all weather conditions.

The use of precipitable water observations is critical to weather forecasting operations in Utah. Because of the varying elevations and sparse distribution of surface observations, surface dewpoint is a poor dataset to use for the prediction of severe weather and precipitation in Utah. Precipitable water is a far more widely used measurement now that PWV information derived from the GOES satellites is available to forecasters on the AWIPS workstation. However, since GOES PWV is unavailable during cloudy conditions, GPS-Met data will be an important adjunct to satellite observations during severe weather events when moisture information is needed most. In the winter, the Salt Lake City metro area is plagued by Lake Effect Snowstorms from the Great Salt Lake. These storms are very difficult to predict and the moisture characteristics of the air upstream of the lake are key to this forecast problem. The high temporal resolution of GPS-Met observations will be of great benefit for these difficult forecast problems.

At least two GPS-Met systems will be installed prior to the Olympic Games. One system, provided by NOAA's National Data Buoy Center, will be installed at the National Weather Service Forecast Office in Salt Lake City. Another system will be located near Myton Utah, approximately 140 miles to the east of Salt Lake, under a cooperative agreement between FSL and the U.S. Department of Transportation's Federal Highway Administration. Data from these sites will be available to the Salt Lake Olympic Organizing Committee's Weather Team consisting of public, private, and academic experts via the FSL-provided FX-Net weather workstations at the Olympic Weather Center and at each major venue.

Contact information
Name: Seth I Gutman
Tel: 303-497-7031
gutman@fsl.noaa.gov