ESRL Quarterly Newsletter - Summer 2009

Science to Ops

First NOAA Testbed Workshop draws innovators, operators

Weather and climate experts from around the country gathered at ESRL in April, for the First NOAA Testbed USWRP Workshop.

Weather and climate experts from around the country gathered at ESRL in April, for the First NOAA Testbed USWRP Workshop.

Nearly 70 weather and climate experts from around the country gathered at ESRL in April, for the First NOAA Testbed USWRP Workshop. In NOAA testbeds, researchers tackle serious, practical forecast challenges—improving flood forecasts in California, for example, or getting more lead-time on landfalling hurricanes. Testbed research involves innovative strategies that are not guaranteed to work, but serve society in powerful ways if they do, said Marty Ralph, chair of the U.S. Weather Research Program (USWRP) executive committee that organized and sponsored the Testbed Workshop, and part of ESRL’s Physical Sciences Division.

“I’m excited to see this group here,” ESRL Director Alexander (“Sandy”) MacDonald said in a talk welcoming testbed workshop participants to Boulder. “We at the Earth System Research Laboratory are hell-bent to make all of our operational weather services the best,” MacDonald said. “Testbeds are a way to take what we have learned and get it into operations. Our job is to apply the science, so we provide the people of the United States with the best possible weather services.”

NOAA has been experimenting with testbeds for about a decade now, said ESRL's Janet Intrieri, who coordinated Testbed Workshop. Intrieri, Ralph, and John Gaynor (NOAA’s Office of Atmospheric and Oceanic Research) organized the workshop so as to ensure that a wide variety of projects were represented, and so participants could share best practices and potential pitfalls. Testbeds represented at the workshop included:

  • Joint Hurricane Testbed
  • Hydrometeorology Testbed
  • Developmental Testbed Center
  • Societal Impacts Program of the National Center for Atmospheric Research
  • Collaborative Science, Technology, and Applied Research
  • Joint Center for Satellite Data Assimilation
  • Short-Term Prediction Research and Transition Center
  • Hazardous Weather Testbed
  • GOES-R Proving Ground
  • Climate Testbed

Researchers involved in each testbed discussed recent and long-term achievements, and shared ideas for future work, especially collaborations. Diversity is part of what makes NOAA’s testbed program so strong, Ralph said. “It’s similar to ensemble forecasting. We all know that a diversity of models makes forecasts better,” he said. “A diversity of approaches in testbeds also leads to improvements.”

Among the attendees was Don Berchoff, the new Director of the Office of Science and Technology in the National Weather Service. “I found this extremely valuable,” Berchoff said after the workshop. “The testbed community needs to think about interoperability between the testbeds,” and the forum represented a start. Berchoff said that since the National Weather Service is laying plans to better incorporate uncertainty into forecasting, the social science presentations at the workshop were important for him to hear. “The briefings helped me to formulate a strategy and framework that I believe will help us focus our limited resources on what promises to deliver the biggest payback.”