FSL in Review 2000 - 2001

Cover/Title Page


Organizational Chart


Message from
the Director


Office of Administration
and Research


Forecast Research
Division


Facility Division


Demonstration Division


Systems Development
Division


Aviation Division


Modernization Division


International Division


Publications


Acronyms and Terms


Figures



Contact the Editor
Nita Fullerton


Web Design:
Will von Dauster
John Osborn


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International Division

Dr. William B. Bendel, Chief
(Supervisory Meteorologist)

(303-497-6708)

Web Homepage: http://www-id.fsl.noaa.gov

Travis Andersen, Computer Programmer, 303-497-6710
Dr. Renate Brümmer, GLOBE Project Manager, 303-497-6718
Dr. Wayne J. Fischer, Physical Scientist, 303-497-6759
Gary Fisher, System Administrator, 303-497-6754
Sylvia N. Hasui, Secretary Office Automation, 303-497-6709
Jean Hopson, Computer Specialist, 303-497-6706
Chris King, System Administrator, 303-497-6755
Vivian A. LeFebvre, System Administrator, 303-497-6721
Sean Madine, Lead Computer Programmer, 303-497-6769
Dr. Fanthune Moeng, Project Manager, 303-497-6065
Maureen Murray, Computer Graphics Expert, 303-497-6705
Evan Polster, Computer Programmer, 303-497-6778
John Pyle, Computer Specialist 303-497-6724
David Salisbury, Computer Programmer, 303-497-6753
Michael Turpin, Lead Computer Programmer, 303-497-6756
Dr. Ning Wang, Computer Programmer, 303-497-6704
Ali Zimmerman, Computer Programmer, 303-497-6736

(The above roster, current when document is published, includes
government, cooperative agreement, and commercial affiliate staff.)

Address
NOAA Forecast Systems Laboratory Mail Code: FS7
David Skaggs Research Center
325 Broadway
Boulder, Colorado 80305-3328


Objectives

The International Division oversees internal development of systems intended primarily for global or international application. It is involved in cooperative technology transfer activities with international organizations, including the Central Weather Bureau (CWB) of Taiwan and the Korean Meteorological Administration (KMA). Technical support is provided for the Global Learning and Observations to Benefit the Environment (GLOBE) Program, a highly successful international environmental education and research activity that links the efforts of students, teachers, and scientists. (The GLOBE "Welcome" Webpage is shown in Figure 56.) Another focus is the FX-Net project involving the development of an inexpensive PC workstation system for use in a variety of forecast, training, education, and research applications where the full capabilities of a WFO-Advanced type system are not required. A more recent project, the WorldWide Weather Workstation (W4) initiative, will provide a specially designed workstation system to help meet the forecasting needs of developing countries. The W4 system will also be useful to emergency response agencies, for example, in forecasting potential fire danger in remote areas.

ID - GLOBE Home Page

Figure 56. A screen showing the GLOBE Web homepage, http://www.globe.gov.

The International Division is currently working on the following five programs/projects and three initiatives:

  • Programs/Projects

    • GLOBE
    • CWB Technology Transfer
    • KMA Nowcasting System
    • Thailand Meteorology Department (TMD) Weather Forecast Training
    • Mount Washington Observatory (MWO) Center

  • Initiatives

    • FX-Net System
    • Wavelet Transform Compression Technique
    • W4 System


The GLOBE Program
Renate Brümmer, Project Manager

Objectives

Established in 1994, GLOBE is implemented through bilateral agreements between the U.S. Government and governments of partner nations. The goals of this education and research program are to increase environmental awareness of people throughout the world, contribute a better understanding of the earth, and help all students reach higher levels of achievement in science and mathematics. Under the guidance of their teachers, students worldwide collect environmental data around their schools and post these findings on the Internet. GLOBE scientists design protocols for measurements (Figure 57) that are simple enough for K-12 students to perform, and are also useful in scientific research. As scientists respond to the major environmental issues of today, laboratory and classroom collaboration will help unravel how complex interconnected processes affect the global environment. Years of student data collection have resulted in a significant contribution to science. GLOBE's unique global database holds more than 6 million student measurements of atmospheric, soil, biologic, and hydrologic data, all of which are universally accessible on the Web for research experiments. Since it was initiated, the GLOBE Program has grown from 500 U.S. schools in 1995 to more than 10,000 participating GLOBE schools located in 97 partner countries today, shown in Figure 58.

ID - GLOBE Temperature Measurements

Figure 57. Temperature measurements conducted by GLOBE schools on 18 April 2001.

ID - GLOBE Countries

Figure 58. Countries currently participating in the GLOBE Program.

The International Division is responsible for the development and maintenance of the main GLOBE Web server, real-time data acquisition, and the central GLOBE database.

Accomplishments

The main undertaking last year was "GLOBE 2000" involving the creation of new Webpages and upgrades to data entry pages, development of many new administrative Web tools, extensive upgrades to the database software, and a major hardware upgrade of GLOBE computers at FSL.

GLOBE Webpages – A major accomplishment was the development of GLOBE data entry pages to support new measurement protocols of ozone, haze, humidity, obscuration as part of cloud observation, and lilac observation. Javascript was used wherever applicable to design simpler, more user-friendly data entry pages.

The GLOBE Webpages were enhanced and upgraded to include many new sections and categories, such as the "Educators' Corner" (Figure 59), which addresses the needs of GLOBE teachers. This site provides teachers with specific guidelines on measurement protocols and data quality techniques, and choices of learning activities for integration into lesson plans to help students understand their assignments. Any GLOBE teacher can access the "Educators' Forum" Webpage to share strategies for guiding students through research projects and implementing GLOBE in their school's curriculum. A new section added to the "Scientists' Corner" Webpage is the GLOBE Chief Scientist's "Honor Roll," which recognizes schools that, for instance, take the most measurements consistently over a certain time period and according to specified protocols. Besides being listed on the Web, the honored teachers and students automatically receive an e-mail with a congratulatory message. Another site important to the continued improvement of the quality of student guidance and educational resources is the "Program Evaluation" page, where teachers, students, and other users can provide useful feedback to curricula and Web developers.

ID - GLOBE Educators' Corner

Figure 59. The "Educators' Corner" GLOBE Webpage provides information for teachers.

Web Tools – New interactive Web tools were developed for GLOBE administration that allow

  • coordinators in various countries to maintain and add schools to the GLOBE database.
  • franchises to organize GLOBE teacher workshops and register teachers online.
  • the international team at GLOBE headquarters to edit and change all of the international partner information available on the Website.
  • staff at GLOBE headquarters to write, edit, and submit GLOBE bulletins independently.

GLOBE Software/Hardware Upgrades – The FSL GLOBE team also developed a Website tool that simplifies the translation of languages for the GLOBE Webpages. Since many steps are eliminated, the translation process is much faster now. One time-saving feature of this tool is that it only needs to translate words or phrases once; the software recognizes repetitively used expressions and protocols that appear on the data entry pages and then automatically translates them. This new development is efficient, and markedly reduces the amount of time needed to translate and publish the vast number of GLOBE Webpages.

In close collaboration with GLOBE systems partners at NASA/GSFC and the DLR in Germany, the FSL team successfully upgraded the GLOBE database to Oracle version 8i. This upgrade improves security for the database, and makes it possible to add Oracle tools as needed. Guidance and leadership continue to be provided for all GLOBE database issues. The real-time replication among the three GLOBE database sites at NOAA/FSL, NASA/GSFC, and DLR/Germany continued to run in operational mode for the entire year.

An important change to the functionality of the GLOBE systems was introduced when the "Distributed Director" tool was physically located at the NASA/Ames GLOBE systems site. It provides sophisticated load balancing of all GLOBE visualization products, which are now served operationally at NASA/GSFC and NOAA/FSL. Whenever a visualization product is requested, the Distributed Director decides which Web server site is in a better position (based on distance, Internet traffic, and status of the Web server) to accept the request. The percentage of requests to be served by either server can be decided at any given time. This completes the first major step in the direction of a full-scale Distributed Director system for the entire GLOBE Website.

Improving and Using GLOBE Data – GLOBE scientists continue to help students and teachers improve the quality of their measurements, and as a result, more scientists in various disciplines are using GLOBE data in their research. For example, in 2000, University of Arizona researchers used GLOBE data to develop year-round relationships between air and water temperature, and then compared GLOBE data with data and relationships from other sites. The advantage of using GLOBE data in this study, according to the researchers, is that "the air and water temperature measurements are taken in close proximity, while stream temperature measurements by the U.S. Geological Survey and other agencies are often several kilometers from the nearest weather station." Once the relationships between air and water temperature are understood, they can be used to estimate how changes in air temperature may affect the water.

Projections

During Fiscal Year 2001, the development tasks described above will continue commensurate with the evolution and growth of the GLOBE Program, as follows:

  • Many more Webpages will be translated into additional foreign languages.
  • Work will continue on new protocols and data entry pages already under development, and more new Web sections will be designed.
  • The GLOBE database will be adjusted to accommodate several thousand more records.
  • Additional administrative tools will be made available.
  • A second Distributed Director will be added to the system that will allow for full-scale load balancing of the entire GLOBE Website. This should significantly reduce downtimes of the GLOBE Website due to network failures or major power failures at any of the main systems locations.


Central Weather Bureau of Taiwan Technology Transfer
Fanthune Moeng, Project Manager

Objectives

FSL's collaboration with the Central Weather Bureau (CWB) of Taiwan has been a 12-year success story in technology transfer of weather forecasting applications. Since formal cooperative agreements were approved in June 1990, the CWB and FSL partnership has grown to include major initiatives for improving CWB forecasting capabilities. Together they have developed a series of PC-based forecast workstations. The latest workstation is the Weather Information and Nowcasting System (WINS), now operational at the CWB Forecast Center. The system was incorporated into the CWB central facility, including data sources, communication, preprocessing, and product generation. WFNS provides data and products to outside users, including two universities, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), and the Taiwan Hydrology Bureau.

A strong forecasting infrastructure has been built at CWB during the last five years. Greater data collection, improved observation systems, high-performance computing, and management capabilities combine to empower CWB in generating new and more useful forecast products. CWB is positioned to take advantage of this infrastructure in new ways, with more powerful techniques under development within FSL and other NOAA laboratories. The effectiveness of the CWB-FSL cooperation is based in large part on CWB's willingness and ability to develop and use customized products with associated technical support. FSL's mandate to provide useful technologies fits with CWB's real-world forecasting needs.

Accomplishments

In meeting the goals to improve forecasting capabilities at CWB during the last fiscal year, many major tasks were completed, including:

  • Operational use of the Scalable Modeling System (SMS)
  • Development of the Internet-based workstation FX-Net
  • Implementation of the Local Analysis and Prediction System (LAPS)
  • Plans for future CWB support.

Operational Use of the Scalable Modeling System – In support of CWB's new supercomputer and related high-performance computer activities, FSL used the SMS tool to parallelize CWB's typhoon model, the Typhoon Forecast System (TFS). The SMS subroutines form a software layer between the prediction model's source code and Message Passing Interface (MPI). This layered approach provides CWB with ease of use and minimal impact to their code, portability, and high performance. Source codes that include SMS directives are fully portable to a large subset of existing high-performance computers, Unix workstations, and symmetric multiprocessors (SMPs). SMS provides high-performance scalable I/O and supports both native and portable file formats, and data ordering in files is independent of the number of processors used. Since parallel operations are implemented as a layered set of routines, machine-dependent optimizations can be made inside SMS without impacting the model source code. User-specified optimizations are also possible, such as the execution of redundant computations to avoid time-consuming interprocessor communication to reduce run times. Finally, SMS also provides proven tools to assist in testing and debugging parallel programs.

FSL trained CWB staff on the Scalable Modeling System and provided user support, complete with an overview document, a user guide, and a reference manual detailing each SMS directive.

Development of the Internet-based Workstation FX-Net – The first operational version of FX-Net was completed, which will provide access to the interface functionality of the WFO-Advanced workstation via the Internet. CWB staff worked on the client software, product-maker application, and server software. Potential users of FX-Net include remote observation stations, schools, and other government organizations currently receiving CWB data and products.

Local Analysis and Prediction System – The latest LAPS code was successfully ported to CWB, with daily running synoptic, METAR, buoy, and ship data from CWB using their regional model as background. These operational analysis products (sample shown in Figure 60) are available at CWB's workstation and on FSL's LAPS Website, http://laps.fsl.noaa.gov/taiwan/taiwan_home.html. In compliance with a mutual agreement that FSL provide necessary training, documentation, and technical support, a guest worker from Taiwan received about a year of training on the new system at FSL.

ID - FSL - LAPS - CAPE - Taiwan CWB

Figure 60. Screen from the FSL Webpage showing LAPS information on Convective Available Potential Energy (CAPE) data running on the workstation at the Taiwan Central Weather Bureau.
(
http://laps.fsl.noaa.gov/taiwan/taiwan_home.html)

Plans for Future Support – After numerous planning meetings with CWB management and technical staff, FSL submitted a final proposal to support CWB initiatives during the next phase, 2002 – 2007.

Projections

During the next phase of the modernization of the Central Weather Bureau, FSL will build on the established infrastructure and system expertise at CWB by developing a Very Short Range Analysis and Forecasting (VSRAF) system. This work includes improving dissemination services to Taiwan's emergency managers, and further developing and enhancing information systems and computing and the communication infrastructure. Plans for the near future include such activities as the enhancement of LAPS and deployment of an Internet-based workstation at the CWB.


Korean Meteorological Administration Nowcasting System
Fanthune Moeng, Project Manager

Objectives

The International Division is under agreement with the Meteorological Research Institute (METRI) of the Korean Meteorological Administration (KMA) to design a nowcasting system based on FSL's WFO-Advanced meteorological system. The development of an integrated workstation is the capstone of years of modernization at the KMA to provide better weather information to its citizens. The cooperative effort will be carried out by researchers and engineers from both organizations, and KMA scientists will reside in Boulder, Colorado, for periods up to 11 months for training at FSL.

Accomplishments

Negotiations during Fiscal Year 2000 resulted in approval of a Memorandum of Understanding for Technical Cooperation in Meteorology between NOAA/FSL and KMA/METRI for developing, procuring, and installing an AWIPS-like workstation, called the Forecaster's Analysis System (FAS), at the KMA.

Projections

The FSL-KMA team will focus on developing the initial capability of the KMA nowcasting system, supporting startup and operation, and implementing a training program for KMA forecaster systems and operations staff. Tasks will include identifying requirements for the interface between KMA's current Meteorological Data Observation and Analysis (MDOA) system and the FAS, the experimental version of AWIPS build 5.0.

The first task for FSL and KMA will be to define the initial capabilities of the nowcasting system by adapting FSL's WFO-Advanced system to the current KMA meteorological data observation and analysis environment. KMA staff will prepare real-time data feed, and FSL will support KMA in customizing the KMA nowcasting system with data ingest, user interface, and the two-dimensional display (D2D) components of the WFO-Advanced system. FSL will also recommend suitable hardware equipment, provide specifications for this equipment, and identify the preferred configurations. The second task involves development of the operational KMA nowcasting system. The current FSL WFO-Advanced system will be converted to run on a Linux platform, called the FX-Linux workstation. KMA will retain their current front-end communications and data acquisition systems, and the database of the data management component will be interfaced between KMA's current meteorological data observation system and the new nowcasting system. The KMA real-time data retrieval software will be integrated and tested. The workstation will include all types of meteorological data, along with user interface, menu, display functions, and data management. Additional tasks will be better defined and discussed in a later report.

An important complement to the startup and implementation tasks mentioned above is thorough training for everyone involved in the new nowcasting system. Therefore, the KMA nowcasting developers, referred to as PG-NOW(Project Group Nowcasting), will receive general training on the system at FSL. They will receive specific training on how to customize the KMA nowcasting system. FSL will also provide the trainees with existing design documentation and user information for the WFO-Advanced system.


Thailand Meteorology Department Training Project
Fanthune Moeng, Project Manager

Objectives

The U.S. Trade and Development Agency has asked FSL to provide a training program for the Thailand Meteorological Department (TMD) in mesoscale meteorology forecasting techniques. The training course is part of a separate U.S. Government/Contractor agreement to provide a Numerical Weather Prediction Center capability for the TMD in Bangkok, Thailand. FSL will provide a series of training sessions for TMD forecasters and managers to improve their use of system capabilities that were procured under this contract. The International Division is the lead in planning these training activities, but others in FSL will take an active role in the training courses.

Accomplishments

FSL staff conducted a site visit to the TMD in the summer of2OOO, prepared project agreements in the fall, and acquired formal approval of the training program later in the year.

Projections

The FSL-TMD collaborative activities will include training in the following areas:

  • A mesoscale forecasting class will be conducted at FSL to train TMD meteorologists how to effectively utilize the new supercomputer and workstation systems for improving synoptic-scale forecasts and providing mesoscale forecasts for Thailand. The FSL training venue will expose users to data types not currently available on the TMD workstation systems. Integrated use of all data and information available to the forecasters will be emphasized, as well as use of numerical weather prediction data. The training will also include forecasting techniques for different weather events, and how to improve the dissemination of severe weather warnings.

  • The FSL-developed Local Analysis and Prediction System (LAPS) to be installed on the TMD supercomputer will provide a unique way for TMD forecasters to monitor and evaluate the local weather. LAPS combines many different data types into a complete picture of current conditions, which allows forecasters to summarize the latest data and decide where they must focus their attention for a more detailed evaluation. LAPS will be an important step in improving the mesoscale forecast capabilities with TMD. FSL staff will train scientists at the TMD Numerical Weather Prediction Center in the use and interpretation of the LAPS data.

  • Another area of training that FSL will provide involves issues relating to the operation of a meteorological center. Staff at the TMD Numerical Weather Prediction Center will learn about policies, procedures, and techniques concerning the operation and maintenance of a computer center, with the capabilities and uninterrupted status necessary to support the demanding requirements of an operational weather service. Staff responsible for the planning, operations, and maintenance of the FSL Computer Center will visit the TMD Computer Center to conduct this training and suggest possible improvements to that center.

  • An executive training program will be provided to familiarize senior TMD managers with plans, organization, and management concepts of NOAA. An aspect of the training is to allow these managers to develop a better understanding of how NOAA is organized and managed through visits to various NOAA offices. Exposure to the complexities of operating a modernized weather service will be important as senior TMD managers address issues related to modernizing their weather service and improving the timeliness and accuracy of forecasts and warnings.


The Mount Washington Observatory Center Project
Jean Hopson, Project Manager

Objectives

The Mount Washington Observatory (MWO) Center project was initiated in 1998 to create a center committed to weather education and outreach for schools and the general public visiting the New England region. This project is based on a cooperative agreement between FSL and the MWO organization, recipient of a NOAA grant to demonstrate innovative educational approaches using weather to link the disciplines of science, math, geography, and history. The Mount Washington area was chosen for this project because of its extreme and interesting weather conditions.

Weather Discovery Center – The education outreach program includes the Weather Discovery Center (WDC) and an interactive Website. The WDC, located in North Conway, New Hampshire, offers an entertaining, interactive discovery experience to some of the 8.5 million annual visitors to the Mount Washington Valley. Visitors can learn from a series of multimedia presentations, interactive educational displays (Figure 61), and historical weather related exhibits from the New England area. Activities include an interactive exhibit with a flow tank containing a topographical representation of Mount Washington to visually demonstrate the flow of a fluid (air) over a mountain surface. An air cannon on display gives the user a visual reference of how a "packet" of air moves through space. Another exhibit contrasts the historic weather observing instrument used to record the world's highest wind speed of 231 miles per hour from the Mount Washington summit in 1934 with modem observing systems (on display at the NOAA Weather Wall).

ID - Students Interacting in New Hampshire

Figure 61. Photos of students interacting with exhibits at the Weather Discovery Center in North Conway, New Hampshire.

NOAA Weather Wall – The NOAA "Weather Wall" is an exhibit area of multiple interactive screens and hands-on displays providing visitors an opportunity to learn more about the latest advances in weather forecasting. Demonstrations are provided of NOAA's Advanced Weather Interactive Processing System (AWIPS), in use at every National Weather Service (NWS) forecast office, and the FSL-developed Local Data Acquisition and Dissemination System (LDAD), designed to disseminate critical weather information between the NWS field offices and state and local emergency preparedness agencies.

Accomplishments

FSL's contributions from development to main completion of the MWO project included sharing its technology, overseeing progress, and assisting in the administration of the NOAA grant to carry out related activities. The following tasks were completed during the last fiscal year.

Grand Opening of the MWO Weather Discovery Center – The Grand Opening of the Weather Discovery Center in North Conway, New Hampshire, last fall was attended by New Hampshire Senator Judd Gregg, NOAA Assistant Administrator Dr. David Evans, and FSL Director Dr. A.E. MacDonald (Figure 62). This event celebrated the culmination of years of planning and hard work leading to a first-of-its-kind science learning center.

ID - Sandy MacDonald and Senator Judd Gregg

Figure 62. FSL Director A. E. MacDonald (left) and New Hampshire Senator Judd Gregg at the Grand Opening of the Weather Discovery Center.

Traveling Educational Program – FSL assisted the MWO in developing a traveling school program that offers weather education lessons to schools and science centers around the New England region. The instructors constantly emphasized the importance of understanding the weather, and in the process, created an army of young weather observers. Over the last two years, the program was presented at more than a hundred schools, reaching thousands of students. Many teachers at these schools enhance the weather education experience by taking their classes to the WDC for further enrichment. FSL staff also continued to collaborate with MWO staff in making improvements to the MWO Webpages that relate to these educational programs.

New England Atmospheric Research Center – In cooperation with FSL and the University of New Hampshire, MWO scientists installed and tested a GPS water vapor sensor and Grounds Winds LIDAR systems at the newly formed New England Atmospheric Research Center located in Bartlett, New Hampshire. These experiments satisfy a goal of the MWO grant to couple cutting edge atmospheric research activities with educational outreach programs offered to the visiting public. The public and students from area schools were invited to participate in taking observations during these experiments.

Projections

FSL assistance will continue in the improvement of the Weather Discovery Center and its associated Website,
http://www.mountwashington.org. Current exhibits will be expanded and new ones created to further demonstrate weather education concepts. For those students who are outside the reach of the traveling education program or are unable to visit the WDC, the MWO has created a Web-based weather education outreach program. This Website will include lessons utilizing flash animations for students of all ages, and a virtual tour of the center with links to all the materials accessible in the WDC.


The FX-Net Initiative
Renate Brümmer, Project Manager

Objectives

The FX-Net project was established to develop a network-based meteorological workstation that provides access to the basic display capability of an AWIPS workstation via the Internet. The design goal was to offer an inexpensive PC workstation system for use in a variety of forecast, training, education, and research applications not requiring the full capabilities of a WFO-Advanced type system. Although designed primarily for Internet use, FX-Net will also accommodate local network, dial-up, and dedicated line use. The system consists of an FX-Net PC client and an HP Unix server that is a modified AWIPS workstation. The modified server is locally mounted next to an AWIPS data server via a high-speed link. The FX-Net client sends requests for small-sized product requests via the Internet to the FX-Net server, which responds by sending the products to the client. The user interface of the FX-Net client closely resembles the AWIPS workstation (Figure 63), except for reduced resolution and complexity to allow for rapid Internet response. Some of the FX-Net client functionality features include load, animation, overlay, toggle, zoom, and swap. Although the client Java application can be run on a number of standard PC platforms, the system performs best under Windows NT, Windows 2000, or under a Linux operating system. The minimum client hardware configuration consists of a 500-MHz Processor with 256-MB memory. Internet bandwidth down to 56 kbps is considered sufficient to transmit FX-Net products.

ID - FX-Net

Figure 63. User Interface of the FX-Net client workstation.

The available FX-Net products are categorized into four groups: satellite data, model graphics and observations, radar imagery, and model imagery. Wavelet transform is used to compress model and satellite imagery. The application of this relatively new compression technique is critical to the success of delivering very large-size imagery via the Internet in a reasonable amount of time. The small loss of fidelity in the imagery is acceptable in exchange for very high compression ratios. Processing time can be further minimized by pregenerating and compressing all satellite data on the FX-Net server side. In contrast to the satellite imagery, the radar imagery is encoded in a standard lossless image compression format (GIF) and the small-sized model graphics are represented in a standard vector graphics format.

Accomplishments

Work continued toward meeting the FX-Net project's goal of providing access to the interactive functionality of the WFO-Advanced workstation via the Internet. The architecture of the system was constrained mainly by bandwidth limitations and the need to leverage existing workstation code. These issues were addressed by focusing on data compression techniques along with multithreaded client-side processing and communication. Other important tasks include mirroring of the user interface, making the client Java code portable, and modifying the existing WFO-Advanced software.

Software Development – A milestone was met with the completion of an operational version 2.0 of FX-Net released in September 2000. Risk reduction studies and the design of a robust operational server and client version were part of this development. Some of the many new AWIPS products and features included in FX-Net 2.0 are:

  • Color Editor – This tool emulates the AWIPS color editor dialog and allows users to modify the color of an image represented by a given product. For example, users can choose to "black out" portions of an image represented by a specific range of color spectrum and highlight a more interesting image related to a current weather event.
  • Product Families – FX-Net now emulates the AWIPS product family capability, enabling users to request, via the "Families" section of the Volume menu, entire product sets based on a given model family.
  • Procedures – FX-Net will emulate the AWIPS procedures capability, allowing users to save and load custom product sets.
  • Auto Update – AWIPS always automatically updates products loaded in the primary viewport. FX-Net, however, cannot purely emulate this capability, but will allow users to activate a similar feature. Once enabled (via a toggle button on the control panel or from the View menu), the system will initiate a background thread that continually checks for new data based on the product set loaded in the primary viewport, and will refresh that product set by appending the new frames or overlays to it when it becomes available.
  • Hot Keys – Certain "short-cut" keyboard commands will be available that closely emulate those found in the AWIPS product.
  • Product Status – A text window is now accessible that contains the history of those messages displayed on the status bar. This window is accessed by pressing the button next to the status indicator on the status bar.
  • Splash Screen – The FX-Net splash screen was added.
  • Product Load Indicator – This application now contains a small animated globe in the upper-left comer of the control bar which spins when a product is in the process of loading.
  • Logging – A more detailed logging facility now exists in the products which will help users and developers track down problems. This feature allows for six distinct operational logs (based on the software package), and includes configurable properties to control, by severity level, which messages get sent to any given log.

FX-Net Applications – The operational use of FX-Net began two years ago at Plymouth State College (PSC) in New Hampshire. PSC installed a special meteorological computer laboratory, which included 20 FX-Net workstations and a data projector. FX-Net is used extensively in an undergraduate class that focuses on high-tech forecasting tools. Close cooperation between FSL's FX-Net team and PSC resulted in important improvements on the FX-Net client side. The FX-Net upgrade (version 2.0) was received very well by PSC.

Last year, FX-Net was selected as the official forecaster workstation to support weather forecasting at the 2002 Winter Olympics outdoor venues in Salt Lake City. In this scenario, the FX-Net server is located at the NWS Western Region headquarters in Salt Lake City. Forecasting offices at each of the five Winter Olympics outdoor venues will be equipped with FX-Net PC clients. With strong support from the NWS staff, an FX-Net server was installed at the Western Region headquarters. High-speed communication lines were installed to connect the server with the outdoor venues' forecasting offices. FX-Net was successful in its debut at several pre-Olympics trials held in November 2000.

Projections

The next major software development goal for the FX-Net project is the adaptation to the latest AWIPS software, builds 5.0 and 5.1. Future client-side enhancements will include access to case study data and support of national composite high-resolution radar datasets.

The International Division will work with the Salt Lake City Organizing Committee to provide an FX-Net workstation system for onsite forecasting at each outdoor site of the 2002 Winter Olympic Games. The system will be used for forecasting during the pre-Olympics events from December 2000 to March 200 1, and for the Weather Support Systems tests planned for January 2001. FX-Net will be installed at a number of competition venues for use by an onsite forecaster. A test server at the NWS Western Region headquarters will be further evaluated to determine FX-Net requirements. Modifications and enhancements will be made to the system according to forecaster feedback regarding these requirements.

FX-Net will also continue to support the PSC undergraduate meteorology laboratory. The University of Northem Iowa (UNI) will be one of the new customers using FX-Net by summer 2001. The UNI application will be comparable to the one at PSC, but will also include special summer weather forecasting workshops for teachers, emergency response personnel, and the general public.

In support of the many other possible applications of FX-Net, development of more advanced features will continue, such as the ability of a single FX-Net server to provide data for many AWIPS localizations, and optimization of data transmission in batch mode for fire weather use. Whenever FX-Net servers are deployed outside FSL, enhancements will be made to allow easy operational support of these systems.

With the advent of wireless Internet connectivity and powerful laptop computers, FX-Net can be accessed even in remote areas. This makes FX-Net especially interesting for forecast regions with numerous remotely located forecasting offices, for example, the Pacific and Alaska regions. Cooperation with both of these NWS regional offices should begin in 2001, as well as serious planning efforts for the use of FX-Net as a fire weather forecasting tool in the field.

Additional information on the above FX-Net activities is available on the International Division homepage, http://www-id.fsl.noaa.gov.


The Wavelet Compression Initiative
Renate Brümmer, Project Manager

Objectives

After successfully applying the wavelet data compression technique to satellite imagery, the Wavelet Data Compression initiative was established to further investigate the possibility of using the technology for other meteorological datasets.

Accomplishments

To meet the requirements from other projects to transmit model products via low bandwidth communication channels, effort was focused on the application of wavelet compression to gridded model data. Compared to imagery datasets, model data usually have higher numbers of dimensions, but each dimension has a smaller size. Therefore, special treatments are needed to exploit the correlation among all dimensions.

A multidimensional data arrangement and transform scheme has been developed to accommodate the special features of the model dataset. An experimental encoder and decoder package has been implemented to test various datasets with different standard waves and different post transform compression algorithms. The preliminary test of the model grids with prototype software has shown promising results.

Researchers completed investigations of different methods to control and minimize errors that were made in various error metrics.

Projections

Studies will continue on one of the critical portions of the data compression package, quantification. A zero-tree like algorithm will be designed and implemented to further improve the data compression performances, including compression ratio, error distribution, and encoding time. Work will continue on the preprocessing of datasets. These preprocessing steps, along with the new quantification method, will help to take advantage of the correlation between data points, thus improving the performance of the compression algorithms.


The WorldWide Weather Workstation Initiative
Wayne Fischer, Project Manager

Objectives

The WorldWide Weather Workstation (W4) initiative is one of FSL's latest developments utilizing WFO-Advanced workstation technology. The primary objective is to design a system that will meet the forecasting needs of developing nations worldwide. Developing countries, of course, experience the same types of natural disasters as occur elsewhere, but they lack the infrastructure available in modernized forecast offices, such as data communications, local capability for operating numerical forecast models, and access to observations and data. The advanced workstation technology and varied datasets offered by the W4 system will help forecasters and emergency response managers in these countries better deal with hazardous weather events, ultimately saving lives. The W4 system would first be made available to forecasters in various countries of Central and South America.

In studying the forecast situations and needs of developing countries, the design of the W4 system was based on the following considerations:

  • Low capital and operating costs
  • Ease of installation and maintenance
  • Portability (installation in remote areas for short-term operation)
  • Flexibility (modification of forecast products and addition of local data products at the forecast site).

Both the server and user subsystems will utilize the PC Linux platform, substantially decreasing system capital costs while providing high-level system performance. Since the Linux platform can receive a highly compressed stream of satellite broadcast data over modest bandwidths, the W4 system will deliver forecast products using a broadcast from a geostationary satellite. Very Small Aperture Terminal (VSAT) technology will provide the broadcast of weather data. FSL expertise in data compression techniques, particularly wavelet transform compression, will allow the transmission of a full set of forecast data over a 128-kbps satellite link. These techniques will be applied to satellite imagery, observational data, and gridded numerical weather prediction model datasets. Significant improvement in efficiency of transmission will decrease the system's operating costs. W4 users will have access to a wide range of data, including full resolution geostationary satellite data from all channels, full resolution numerical weather prediction (NWP) data from various forecast models (initially, from the Medium-Range Forecast (MRF) and the Aviation (AVN) models), all internationally available observation data (such as surface observations, ship and buoy reports, upper-air soundings, and aircraft reports), and local observations (available at individual forecast offices).

The W4 system will use a series of scales, as is done in AWIPS, that will allow a display compatible with the size and type of weather feature that is being studied. Important workstation features will be available, such as roam and zoom, predefined procedures (sets of forecast products designed for a specific type of storm), family graphics, and toggle capabilities for displayed products.

Accomplishments

Development of the W4 system began during Fiscal Year 2000, with progress accomplished in the areas of system configuration, datasets and forecast products, and data compression.

System Configuration – The W4 system has four major components: the W4 server, the satellite broadcast system, the user satellite ground station, and the forecaster workstation. A significant investment is required in establishing the W4 capability and implementing the server and satellite broadcast system to disseminate the forecast information. The system is economically viable with hundreds of users. Design studies indicate that the commonly used VSAT technology provides the required quality and reliable performance at comparatively low cost.

The target workstation platform is a PC with Dual 1 GHz Pentium III processors with 512 MB of memory, a Linux operating system, and a 2l-inch color monitor. Such a PC configuration is readily available anywhere in the world at the current moderate cost of under $5,000 from several manufacturers. The Linux version of the AWIPS workstation allows the extension of weather products to other geographic areas. FSL performed a test to determine potential problems when forecasting in Bogota, Colombia. Forecast products generated by the local workstation itself were displayed without major problems, but many local considerations are necessary to create a fully functional system.

Datasets and Forecast Products – A fundamental system decision to be addressed is whether a remotely located forecast workstation is to be provided with full datasets or with specific forecast products. With a predefined set of forecast products, it is only necessary to send a small volume of data to simplify the forecaster workstation. Providing full sets of data, both observation and numerical model data, offers the potential for far greater flexibility in the use of the forecast workstation. An analysis of costs associated with satellite broadcast showed that 128-kbps is a reasonable cost/performance capability. Using this data rate, the full set of products required for synoptic and meso-alpha scale forecasting can be efficiently broadcast to forecast offices.

Data Compression – The International Division's earlier work with the FX-Net system produced important advances in data compression of NWP data files, particularly in satellite imagery. These techniques were applied to NWP model output with good results; this convinced the development team that full NWP model datasets could be transmitted over 128-kbps channels. However, the size of operational forecast model runs increases at a faster rate than communication costs decrease along with improved capacities. The distribution of model output is a growing problem of broader importance to the meteorology community, beyond the operation of W4 and the development team will continue to investigate a solution.

Projections

During Fiscal Year 2001, emphasis will be on developing a fully operational beta-test version of the W4 system, conducting an operational test and evaluation of the beta-test version, and improving the data compression technology.

The International Division will develop partnerships with countries in Central and South America, and will seek a weather service organization that will work with FSL in defining forecast products and procedures that fit the forecast needs of the Latin American countries. This partner organization would serve as the initial beta test site and as an eventual operational site for the W4 system. Collaboration will entail an exchange of visits for orientation and training purposes. FSL meteorologists and system developers are skilled in planning, designing, testing, and evaluating complex meteorological computer/communication systems such as W4, but the installation, operation, and maintenance of such a system deployed at various locations would need to be handled by a private sector corporate partner. Therefore, a corporate partner will be sought whose skills and experience complement FSL's.


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