IntroductionA. E. "Sandy" MacDonald, Director
The Forecast Systems Laboratory marked its tenth anniversary on 23 October 1998. Created to help NOAA accomplish its mission of improving short-term warning and forecast products and services, FSL conducts research and development, and transfers new scientific and technological advances to the nation's operational weather services. In this issue of the FSL in Review, I would like to comment on the major accomplishments of the laboratory during its first 10 years, and highlight some new efforts already underway or planned for the first decade of the 21st century.
Among our successes in transferring science and technology to operations, the
six mentioned below – AWIPS/WFO-Advanced, RUC, GLOBE, Profiler Demonstration
Program, LAPS, and AGFS – contribute directly to NOAA's mandate of promoting
public safety and economic efficiency through better prediction and warning
• RUC – The Rapid Update Cycle model is the operational very short-range prediction model of the National Weather Service. The second generation 40-km version, RUC-2, is the only operational system providing updated national-scale numerical analyses of conventional and new data sources and forecasts every hour out to 12 hours from the National Centers for Environmental Prediction. RUC was developed to answer the Aviation Weather Program's need for accurate short-range forecasts in commercial and general aviation. Last year the RUC-2 developers were awarded the Department of Commerce Bronze Medal.
• GLOBE – The GLOBE [Global Learning and Observations to Benefit the Environment] program is an international science and education endeavor involving a worldwide network of students who make environmental observations and share the results with scientists, academia, and the public. NOAA's emphasis on expanding science education is visible in GLOBE, which has 6500 participating schools from 80 countries, 10,000 GLOBE-trained teachers, and two million observations in its data archive. As a leader in the GLOBE program since its inception five years ago, FSL works with GLOBE management in Washington in sponsoring science education workshops, developing curricula, and training teachers (K-12). FSL developed the first GLOBE workstation and data processing center, and continues using advanced features to enhance the data center and the GLOBE Website.
• NOAA Profiler Network – The Wind Profiler Demonstration Network was implemented by FSL in collaboration with Lockheed Martin, formerly Unisys. This network demonstrated the high value of wind profilers, which provide information not available through other observing systems – reliable hourly observations of winds from the surface to the lower stratosphere. Four years ago, this 30-station network was designated as the operational NOAA Profiler Network. Since then FSL has implemented additional profiler sites in Alaska. We have also demonstrated the RASS [Radio Acoustic Sounding System] technique for remote sensing of temperatures at profiler sites, and the use of ground-based GPS receivers and commercial aircraft reports for determining integrated water vapor.
• LAPS – The Local Analysis and Prediction System integrates data from virtually every meteorological observation system into a very high-resolution gridded framework centered on the forecast office's domain of responsibility. As an integral element of the WFO-Advanced system, LAPS will provide real-time, three-dimensional, local- scale analyses for operational weather facilities. LAPS is used by the Air Force to initialize its weather model, and it also runs in weather offices in Europe, Southwest Asia, Asia, and Alaska. FSL staff received a Department of Commerce medal for the role LAPS played at the 1996 Olympics in improving weather prediction for local venues.
• AGFS – The Aviation Gridded Forecast System is a software tool that enables aviation forecasters at the National Weather Service to add value to aviation impact variable grids generated by fine-resolution weather prediction models. AGFS was developed jointly with the National Center for Environmental Research, and is funded by FAA. Its popular Web page (30,000 hits per day), the Aviation Digital Data Service out of the Aviation Weather Center, provides real-time aviation related weather information for the aviation community and the general public.
• WRF – This next-generation mesoscale forecast model and assimilation system is being developed to better understand and predict mesoscale precipitation systems and to promote closer ties between the research and operational forecasting communities. The flexible WRF model (being designed jointly with NCEP, FSL, NCAR, and CAPS) will incorporate advanced numerics and data assimilation techniques, multiple relocatable nesting capability, and improved physics, particularly for the treatment of convection and mesoscale precipitation.
• NAOS – FSL will continue to be heavily involved in the NAOS program, whose purpose is to design an improved composite observing system for the next century. The NAOS council, with representatives from agencies in the U.S., Canada, and Mexico, is making recommendations on the configuration of the upper-air observing systems of North America and adjacent waters. Studies are underway to determine the most affordable and best mix of observations to maximize forecast accuracy in the operational setting.
Finally, a major milestone was reached recently when five NOAA research laboratories and the Denver Weather Forecast Office moved into a beautiful new building, the David Skaggs Research Center, at the 325 Broadway Department of Commerce site. The consolidation of groups working toward common NOAA goals is quite encouraging. Further, I am very grateful for the more than 200 experienced and talented staff at FSL. They have a track record of outstanding accomplishments, and are highly committed to making the best of new science and technology available to the nation's operational weather services.
Editor's Note: Last year Dr. MacDonald received the Presidential Distinguished Rank Award for his leadership role in technology transfer and the laboratory's contributions to AWIPS.
Programmatic StructureF. James Holitza, Director of Administration and Research
The research and development activities are conducted in seven divisions:
Systems Development Division
These laboratory programs employ scientists from two Environmental Research Laboratories' cooperative institutes: the Cooperative Institute for Research in Environmental Sciences (CIRES), Boulder, Colorado, and the Cooperative Institute for Research in the Atmosphere (CIRA), Fort Collins, Colorado. In addition, postdoctoral scientists are under contract through the National Research Council (NRC), Washington, D.C., and the National Center for Atmospheric Research (NCAR), Boulder.
Support for computer operations, computer systems administration, computer hardware and software maintenance, system analysis and design, systems research and development, and meteorological research and development are provided by commercial service contractors: Gonzales Consulting Services, Inc., and System Technology Associates, Inc. The administrative activities are managed by the Director of Administration and Research.