ESRL Global Systems Division

NOAA's Profiler Network Celebrates 10 Years of Successful Operation

On May 16, 2002 a celebration hosted by the Forecast Systems Laboratory's Profiler Program was held. In attendance, as special guest of honor, was Dr. James R. Mahoney, NOAA's newly appointed Assistant Secretary of Commerce for Oceans and Atmosphere.

Dr. Sandy MacDonald gave a brief speech and presented an award to all the employees who had participated in the program. The NOAA Profiler Network represents the operational result of decades of research and development, much of which occurred within OAR's Environmental Research Laboratories. Many, many scientists, engineers, computer scientists, managers, and support staff of the Aeronomy, Environmental Technology (formerly Wave Propagation), and Forecast Systems Laboratories contributed to the overall effort and many of them were present. Also in attendance were several retirees who participated in the program which started in 1985.

Guests of particular note were Dr. Vernon Derr, former Director of the Environmental Research Laboratories and Profiler Program Manager; Dr. C. Gordon Little, first Director of the Wave Propagation Laboratory - now the Environmental Technology Lab; Dr. David C. Hogg, Program Area Chief with WPL and former director of antenna research at Bell Labs; as well as Dr. Richard G. Strauch, Program Area Chief, member of the National Academy of Engineers and outstanding radar engineer. Mr. John Green, formerly of the Aeronomy Lab and who built one of the very early profilers also attended.

With the acceptance of the Blue River, Wisconsin system by the government on May 18, 1992, the $16 million Profiler Network began full operations. For the past ten years, 35 systems located in Alaska and the lower-48 states have been sending wind information to the Profiler Hub in Boulder, Colo. Processed hourly wind data are then transmitted to the National Weather Service offices throughout the U.S. for use in making local forecasts and in numerical weather prediction models.

Many times over its ten-year lifetime the profilers have proven their worth. During the May 3, 1999 Oklahoma tornado outbreak, when a record 52 tornadoes hit southwestern and central Oklahoma, the profilers provided critical information to the forecasters. The system at Tucumcari, NM was particularly vital. In the summer of 2000, all three New Mexico profilers provided invaluable data for fire weather support of the Los Alamos, NM wildfire. In March 2002, the Alaska profilers were critical in determining the strength and duration of the famous "100 year snow event" in Anchorage.

Despite the network's decade of highly successful operation, and a customer base of many public and private organizations including the National Weather Service, the military, universities, the research community, private weather groups, and the media, it may have to be dismantled. A critical upgrade involving a change of the profilers' transmitting frequency is required to avoid interference with the global search and rescue instruments that will be on 60-70 satellites within the next few years. At present, no funds have been identified in NOAA's operating budget for this upgrade.

Contact information
Name: Margot H Ackley
Tel: 303-497-6791
ackley@fsl.noaa.gov