FSL in Review 2002 - 2003

Cover/Title Page

Organizational Chart

Office of the Director

Office of Administration
and Research

Information and
Technology Services

Forecast Research

Demonstration Division

Systems Development

Aviation Division

Modernization Division

International Division


Acronyms and Terms

Figures Listing

Contact the Editor
Nita Fullerton

Web Design:
Will von Dauster
John Osborn

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FIR 2002 - 2003 A&R MastHead

F. James "Jim" Holitza, Director

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

Sandra J. Aschert, Administrative Officer, 303-497-6803
Sandra J. Chandler, Budget Analyst, 303-497-6282
Sybil A. Ennis, Administrative Technician, 303-497-4134
Fredric N. Gould, Computer Specialist, 303-497-6861
Penny L. Granville, Budget Analyst, 303-497-6108
Phyllis L. Gunn, Program Analyst, 303-497-6625
Tracy L. Hoy, Inventory Control Technician, 303-497-6912
Rhonda K. Lange, Visitor Information Specialist, 303-497-6045
Bernard A. Metz, Computer Specialist, 303-497-6746
Gail E. Widger, Administrative Assistant, 303-497-3090

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

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

Figure 4 - Clouds Shot

Figure 4. Sunset showing the transformation of a contrail in a cloudy sky.(Photographer unknown)


FSL, established in October 1988, is one of 12 research laboratories under the Office of Oceanic and Atmospheric Research (OAR) of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), within the Department of Commerce. The mission of FSL is to transfer new research findings in atmospheric, oceanic, and hydrologic sciences to the operational elements of NOAA and other domestic and foreign organizations. It conducts programs (involving the following activities) to integrate, evaluate, and apply developments to information and forecast systems.
  • Exploratory System Development – Anticipate requirements for NOAA's operational services and develop concepts in cooperation with operations specialists to meet these requirements. Test the utility of these concepts in environmental information and prediction systems for operations and data management.
  • Research Applications – Conduct applied research toward improved forecasting capabilities. Capitalize on technological advances and improved understanding of the atmosphere-land-ocean environment to develop improved techniques for geophysical observations, more effective data assimilaton, and more accurate prediction models.
  • System Validation – Use real-time and archived data to test and evaluate hardware and software systems and their diagnostic and predictive output.
  • Technology Transfer – Work directly with users in expediting the transfer of new techniques and systems to operational use. Pursue goals toward effective dissemination of environmental information to foster highly informed decision-making.


The Office of the Director manages FSL, in addition to special research programs conducted within the laboratory.

The Office of Administration and Research, under the Office of the Director, provides management support, administrative support led by an Administrative Officer, IT support, contract administration, and visitor and information services (Figure 4).

The Information and Technology Services (ITS) is also under the Office of the Director. The FSL Chief Information Officer manages the ITS, which is responsible for the computers, communications and data networks, and associated peripherals that FSL staff use to accomplish their research and systems development mission. The FSL Central Facility comprises dozens of computers ranging from workstations and servers to a High Performance Technologies, Inc. (HPTi) supercomputer. The facility contains a wide variety of meteorological data-ingest interfaces, storage devices, local- and wide-area networks, communications links to external networks, and display devices. Over 700 Internet Protocol-capable hosts and network devices include Unix hosts, PCs and Macintoshes, and network routers, hubs, and switches. These hardware and associated software enable FSL staff to design, develop, test, evaluate, and transfer to operations advanced weather information systems and new forecasting techniques. Data and products are also provided for research activities at other NOAA Research Laboratories, the National Center for Atmospheric Research (NCAR), and university laboratories.

Six divisions carry out the research and development activities, as follows.

    The Forecast Research Division (FRD) is home to most of the research in FSL on short-range forecasting and small-scale weather phenomena. High-resolution numerical models are developed by scientists in FRD to support the NWS and the aviation community with accurate short-range forecasts based on the latest observations. The Rapid Update Cycle (RUC), an operational system within the National Weather Service (NWS), provides hourly updated national-scale numerical analyses and forecasts. The portable Local Analysis and Prediction System (LAPS) can integrate data from virtually every meteorological observation system into a very high-resolution gridded framework centered on any operational forecast office's domain of responsibility. The quasi-nonhydrostatic multiscale model has been developed for use on any scale of motion. Scientists in FRD are also participating in the development of the Weather Research and Forecast (WRF) model, a next-generation mesoscale forecast model and assimilation system that will advance both the understanding and prediction of important mesoscale weather. The Global Air-ocean IN-situ System (GAINS) program is developing a global sounding system, particularly over data-sparse regions, such as the oceans. Dynamical studies of mesoscale processes are conducted to improve understanding of the atmosphere. These studies include analysis of turbulence measurements from special field observations, and the analysis of data from the International H2O Project (IHOP-2002) to improve understanding of the mesoscale variability of water vapor and apply this knowledge to improving the prediction of warm-season precipitation events. Research-quality datasets are also developed to improve mesoscale analysis, data assimilation methods, and numerical weather prediction systems.

    The Demonstration Division evaluates promising atmospheric observing technologies developed by NOAA and other federal agencies and organizations and determines their value in the operational domain. Activities range from the demonstration of scientific and engineering innovations to the management of new systems and technologies. Current activities include the operation, maintenance, and improvement of the NOAA Profiler Network (including three sites in Alaska), which provides reliable hourly observations of winds from the surface to the lower stratosphere. The Radio Acoustic Sounding System (RASS) technique has been demonstrated and proved beneficial for remote sensing of temperatures at profiler sites. A more recent project, the GPS-Met Demonstration Network, has shown that the addition of ground-based GPS water vapor observations to a numerical weather prediction model improves forecast accuracy, especially under conditions of active weather. Wind and temperature data from Cooperative Agency Profilers operated by other organizations are also collected and distributed for research and operational use.

    The Systems Development Division works closely with other FSL groups in providing technical expertise on functional specifications for new workstation and interactive display systems. FSL's continuing support to AWIPS includes an exploratory development project called FX-Collaborate (FXC), which provides interactive features such as drawing and annotation tools, a chatroom, and a capability for sharing local datasets between sites. FXC applications include weather forecast coordination between offices, classroom training, briefings from NWS to other government agencies, field experiment support, and research coordination. Other systems include the Quality Control and Monitoring System (QCMS) which provides users and suppliers of hydrometeorological observations with readily available quality control statistics. Two surface assimilation systems, the MAPS Surface Analysis System (MSAS) and the Rapid Update Cycle Surface Assimilation System (RSAS), provide direct measurements of surface conditions and give crucial indicators of potential for severe weather. In addition, the Meteorological Assimilation Data Ingest System (MADIS) provides quality-controlled observations and data access software to university and government data assimilation researchers.

    FSL initiated the MADIS project to expand availability of value-added observations such as radiosonde, automated aircraft, wind profiler, and surface datasets. The MADIS API also provides access to all observation and QC information in the FSL database and other supported meteorological databases.

    The Aviation Division promotes safer skies through improved aviation weather products. In collaboration with the NWS, Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), Department of Defense (DOD), and Department of Transportation (DOT), it provides improved weather forecasting, product visualization, and verification capabilities to civilian and military forecasters, pilots, air traffic controllers, and airline dispatchers. Through research and development of high-performance computing, the Aviation Division also ensures continued improvement of high-resolution numerical weather analysis and prediction systems.

    The Modernization Division specifies requirements for advanced meteorological workstations, product and technique development, and new forecast preparation concepts and techniques. It manages the development and fielding of advanced prototype meteorological systems into operational NWS forecast offices, and performs objective evaluations of these operational systems. The Modernization Division plays a major role in development and operational use of AWIPS at over 100 NWS forecast offices. It provides management and direction for research in the latest scientific and technical advances, with special emphasis on their potential application to operational meteorology.

    The International Division oversees internal development of systems intended primarily for global or international application. It is involved in several international cooperative technology transfer agreements, such as implementation of a totally updated forecast center at the Central Weather Bureau (CWB) of Taiwan and development of a Forecaster's Analysis System for the Korea Meteorological Administration (KMA). These multiyear programs progressively benefit from advances in application development. The division also supports the GLOBE (Global Learning and Observations to Benefit the Environment) Program, which is widely recognized as one of the most successful international K – 12 education and science programs of its kind. Since its inception 8 years ago, the Program has grown from an initial 450 U.S. GLOBE schools to more than 12,000 participating schools representing over half the countries of the world. GLOBE students conduct a large variety of scientific meausrements and use the Internet to send their findings to a central database. The GLOBE database contains more than 8 million records of atmospheric, soil, biologic, and hydrologic measurements that are used by researchers and students in numerous experiments. The International Division is also involved in the development of a real-time meteorological PC workstation called FX-Net. Based on a modified AWIPS D2D workstation, FX-Net makes AWIPS products available over the Internet via high and low bandwidth communication lines. The latest compression technologies are applied by FX-Net in order to reduce the product file sizes with minimal loss of information. Knowledge gained during research conducted in the area of wavelet compression technology is the underpinning of the FX-Net workstation. The International Division further expanded the research of wavelet compression into the domain of gridded model forecast fields. A method was developed to compress model grids with a prescribed maximum allowable error for each model parameter at all grid points. Wavelet compression studies conducted on the Eta 12-km forecast model delivered significantly better compression ratios than what conventional compression techniques can achieve for the same maximum error.


FSL is staffed by a combination of Civil Service employees, Joint Institute staff, Commercial Affiliates, and Visiting Scientists/Guest Workers. The two Joint Institutes that support FSL are the Cooperative Institute for Research in the Atmosphere (CIRA), Fort Collins, Colorado, and the Cooperative Institute for Research in Environmental Sciences (CIRES), Boulder, Colorado. FSL is also supported by one Commercial Service Affiliate, the Systems Research Group, Inc., Colorado Springs, Colorado. As of October 2002, FSL employees totaled 216 in the following categories: 92 Civil Service (including 1 NWS employee), 70 Joint Institutes (53 from CIRA and 17 from CIRES), 43 Commercial Affiliates, and 11 Visiting Scientists/Guest Workers (Figure 5).

Figure 5 - Employment Categories

Figure 5. Categories of FSL's 216 employees as of October 2002.


Funding for FSL is received from a variety of sources. For Fiscal Year 2002, FSL received $27.9M from the following sources: $9.1M – NOAA's Office of Atmospheric Research (OAR) base funds, $12M – other NOAA funds, $5.4M – U.S. Government outside NOAA, and $1.4M – Non-Federal (Figure 6). The main components of "other NOAA funds" included $3.1M – NWS, $5.1M toward the purchase of a High-Performance Computer System and for research utilizing this system, and $1.6M for support of other NOAA projects. Other U.S. Government sources of funding included the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) and Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) from the Department of Transportation (DOT), the Air Force and Army from the Department of Defense (DOD), the U.S. Forest Service (USFS) from the Department of Agriculture (DOA), the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) from the Department of the Interior (DOI), the Department of Energy (DOE), and the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA). Funding was also received from the Taiwan Central Weather Bureau (CWB), the Korea Meteorological Administration (KMA), and Lockheed Martin.

Figure 6 - Funding Sources

Figure 6. Funding sources totalling $27.9M for Fiscal Year 2002.


The Visitor and Information Services program supports NOAA's educational and outreach goals. Tours and visits are scheduled with appropriate FSL staff to match special interests of the visitors. These services are provided for visitors from schools, the general public, government, private sector, and foreign countries. During 2002, the Office of Administration and Research accommodated at least 1,452 visitors (Figure 7), not including visits arranged directly with FSL staff outside this office. The largest category, 645 visitors came from the federal government. Other visitors included 373 from academia, (educators and students), 205 from the general public, 101 from the private sector, and 128 from foreign countries, including Taiwan, Singapore, Korea, China, Hong Kong, Columbia, New Zealand, Japan, and Australia.

(Anyone interested in visiting FSL may contact Rhonda Lange at 303-497-6045
or by e-mail at Rhonda.K.Lange@ noaa.gov.)

Figure 7 - Visitor Categories

Figure 7. Categories of the 1,452 recorded visitors during 2002.

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