This successful partnership with NCO allowed AWC to complete their transition in just over five months and took weeks of planning, technical coordination, and reprogramming to accomplish. The website will continue to function as it did when running at the NOAA Web Operations Center (WOC), and has built-in redundancy to lower the risk of lengthy outages. The website has been stable since the transition and continues to provide information critical for safe and efficient flight.
Successful End to the 2015 Operational Demo of AWC’s Collaborative Aviation Weather Statement (CAWS)
The Aviation Weather Center’s Collaborative Aviation Weather Statement (CAWS) operational demonstration period for 2015 successfully ended on Friday, October 30. The CAWS is issued by the AWC in Kansas City in conjunction with meteorologists at NWS Center Weather Service Units (CWSUs), NWS Weather Forecast Offices (WFOs), airline meteorologists, and AWC’s National Aviation Meteorologists (NAMs) in Warrenton, VA. This graphical and textual product describes the expected evolution of thunderstorms that may have significant impact to air traffic across the National Air Space within the next six to eight hours.
Convection typically causes the highest number of constraints on the National Air Space. The operational demonstration provides a better understanding of how Air Traffic Managers (ATM) at the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) Air Traffic Control System Command Center (ATCSCC) can more effectively begin, change, or end national traffic flow management decisions.
The CAWS is the first user-designed aviation product combining graphics and text. The FAA is conducting an independent human factors assessment of the process to determine the effectiveness of the product, and completed their first formal evaluation this winter. The operational demonstration is expected to resume on March 1, 2016. [IMAGE BELOW]
The CMORPH precipitation analysis is constructed through integrating information derived from satellite observations as well as in situ measurements. The reprocessed and real-time updates, performed at latencies of 2 hours and 18 hours, respectively, are available through ftp at:
ftp.cpc.ncep.noaa.gov/precip/CMORPH_V0.x_RT (2-hour delayed)
With an extensive record starting from 1998 and updated on a quasi real-time basis, the CMORPH global precipitation analysis is widely used in weather / climate monitoring, model verifications, forcing hydroclimate models and many other fields. Currently, the real-time CMORPH is being utilized by the NOAA El Niño Rapid Response Field Campaign to monitor precipitation variations associated with the ongoing El Niño (http://www.esrl.noaa.gov/psd/enso/rapid_response/forecasting/). As illustrated in figure 1, precipitating systems approaching Alaska and the US West Coast are well detected by the CMORPH, providing real-time information important to the forecasters and many field operations.
An experimental version of CMORPH, currently under testing, has demonstrated much improved capabilities especially for cold season precipitation. The experimental CMORPH captured the recent record breaking winter storm Jonas (figure 2) quite well, enabling the real time monitoring and forecast verification for the storm structure and its evolution.
SPP is a statistical tool that determines the probability for seasonal precipitation to finish at a defined threshold percent of normal rainfall based on over 30 years of the African Rainfall Climatology (ARC2) data set. It applies Kernel Density Estimation methods to generate CDF/PDF based on historical precipitation performance from a defined period within the rainfall season, and projections into the end of the season. The SPP is complementary to seasonal rainfall forecasts and the objective is to enhance the early warning system information at CPC by providing additional guidance for evaluating drought risk potentials or seasonal rainfall surpluses early or half way through the rainfall season. This guidance is anticipated to improve decision making in food security planning and response. SPP is processed and updated daily and the SPP maps are currently used internally in the preparation of the regional hazards outlooks for food security and can be found at this URL:
The figure below illustrates the spatial distribution of moderate to high probabilities for the Jan-Mar 2016 rains to finish below average across most areas in mid-eastern Southern Africa as of 3 February 2016. In contrast, the northeastern areas of southern Africa are likely to finish with rainfall surpluses by the end of March 2016. Objective verification of previous African monsoons indicate that SPP reliably provides probabilistic outcomes of seasonal rainfall performance by the early to mid-stages of the rainfall season for the major climatic regions in East Africa, West Africa and southern Africa. Future plans include the application of SPP to other major monsoon regions of the globe.
The storm deepened dramatically between December 12 and December 13, with a minimum central pressure of 924 millibars early December 13, tying the record for lowest wintertime pressure in the north Pacific Ocean since records began in the winter of 1969-1970. The previous strongest storm in this region occurred in 2014. OPC forecasts and social media information were shared in lengthy social media articles by media partners including The Washington Post and The Weather Channel. Damage was reported in Adak, AK as a result of the storm. OPC coordinated with Alaska Region on the forecasts for the storm system ensuring a collaborated response, and advanced forecasts allowed ships to avoid the very dangerous conditions.
Later, on December 30, another very strong winter storm system affected the north Atlantic, including Iceland, with a minimum central pressure of 925 millibars. This storm will be in the top ten on the all-time list of minimum central pressures for the north Atlantic. OPC forecasters again accurately forecast the strength and progress of the storm as it moved over the north Atlantic and the United Kingdom. OPC advanced forecast information was highlighted on the United Kingdom version of the digital media website Mashable. The storm would unfortunately result in the death of an energy-industry worker when a giant wave swamped an oil rig in the North Sea.
Through all of the active weather, quality OPC social media information reached over 135,000 people from December to early January.
References: Washington Post and Mashable.com
OPC’s Bob Daniels received a group NOS Rafting Award, along with NOS Coast Survey Development Lab’s Lyon Lanerolle, for outstanding day-to-day collaborative efforts involving cross-cutting programmatic tasks that contributed to the accomplishments of the NOS mission.
Daniels and Lanerolle are members of the Pathogens Team, within the NOAA Ecological Forecasting Roadmap, that has developed forecast systems and tools to help predict the occurrence and growth of dangerous Vibrio species in U.S. coastal waters. These forecasts and tools are aimed to serve boaters and swimmers who may encounter Vibrio vulnificus; and shellfish managers, harvesters, and consumers who deal with Vibrio parahaemolyticus accumulating mainly in oysters. Daily forecasts have been demonstrated and are available from the web for several U.S. coastal regions. The forecast systems run on a daily basis being fed by regional NOS model data generated by NWS/NCEP supercomputers, and are maintained and currently hosted by the OPC. Bob and Lyon performed a skill assessment using 2011 data for the Chesapeake Bay Vibrio vulnificus forecasts. The forecasts performed well against observations and the team is aiming to go operational with the system next summer.
OPC Staffing Changes
Thomas (Tom) Cuff became Director of OPC on November 30. Prior to joining the National Weather Service, Tom had been the Technical Director for the Naval Oceanographic Office since 2009. As that command’s senior civilian, he oversaw oceanographic support to naval and defense forces worldwide. With a strong background in oceanography, he managed the transition of research and development activities into operations to ensure products were scientifically sound and met the Navy’s requirements. Tom holds a M.S. in Meteorology from the University of Maryland and is a graduate of the U.S. Naval Academy, where he received a B.S. in Oceanography. He served in the Navy on active duty from 1984-1992.
We greatly appreciate Joe Sienkiewicz’s superb leadership during 2015. Joe held three leadership positions for much of the year, serving as acting director of OPC for eight months while also serving as acting branch chief for the Ocean Forecast Branch and keeping up with his permanent position as branch chief for Ocean Applications.
On December 13, Darin Figurskey officially started his service as the Ocean Forecast Branch Chief for OPC. Darin returned to OPC following a two-month detail as branch chief last summer. Darin was previously the Meteorologist-in-Charge of the NWS office in Raleigh, NC.
Scott Prosise, Senior Marine Forecaster at the Ocean Prediction Center, retired January 3 after over 39 years of government service. Scott, originally from College Park, MD, joined the military in 1976 as an aerographer’s mate in the Navy, gaining further education through various Naval schools, along with classes at the University of Maryland and San Jose State University. Scott’s degree is in Information Systems from Columbia Union College in Takoma Park, MD.
As a meteorologist, Scott spent nearly all of his professional years with OPC. Before working at OPC, Scott was a Meteorological Technician at the forecast office in Washington, D.C., and he also worked in the Basic and Aviation Weather branches at the National Meteorological Center (NMC), which became NCEP in 1995. Immediately before coming to OPC, Scott worked for the National Ocean Service (NOS) doing marine data quality control. The NOS unit closed and was absorbed by what is now the OPC.
As a long-time National Weather Service Employees Organization (NWSEO) Steward at the OPC, Scott was a key team member in the process of the NCEP move from the World Weather Building in Camp Springs to the NOAA Center for Weather and Climate Prediction in College Park, MD. Scott also helped to bring about many changes and improvements in services for NWS customers and partners, particularly as the long-time tropical focal point for the OPC. Scott’s teamwork, professionalism, and contributions to public service will be remembered fondly at the OPC.
OPC Employees Selected for Leadership Program
In December, two OPC employees were selected for participation in the Eastern Region Leadership Development Program; Fran Achorn and Frank Musonda. The objectives of this two-year program, open to NCEP employees as well as those throughout the Easter Region, are to prepare leaders to take on higher and broader roles and responsibilities, provide opportunities to obtain experience understanding regional and agency-wide issues, and to create a culture of collaborative leaders who focus on achieving valuable results in their own offices and beyond. This is the first year that NCEP has partnered with the Eastern region in this program. Congratulations to Fran and Frank!
This release is a very major step in the United States determination to address civil societal issues related to all aspects of space weather. The significance of the release and of the occasion was underscored by the program speakers, who included Senator Bill Nelson (D/Florida), Dr. John Holdren (Assistant to the President for Science and Technology), Dr. Louis Uccellini (Assistant Administrator for weather services, NOAA), heads of other agencies that will contribute to executing the strategy and the defined actions, and panelists from industry and academia.
The National Space Weather Action Plan from the Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP) (https://www.whitehouse.gov/sites/default/files/microsites/ostp/final_nationalspaceweatheractionplan_20151028.pdf) is truly comprehensive, innovative, and forward looking. It is not alarmist. It is sound and factual, as would be expected. The Action Plan is based upon the six strategic goals of the National Space Weather Strategy (https://www.whitehouse.gov/sites/default/files/microsites/ostp/final_nationalspaceweatherstrategy_20151028.pdf). The essential aspect of the Strategic Plan, and thus the Action Plan, is that the six goals are deliberately arranged in some order, beginning with the determination of what might be expected from space weather events (“Establishing Benchmarks”), and how these might affect modern technical systems. Rather than following the usually invoked “linear” model of basic research ultimately resulting in practical applications, the strategy and the actions ask questions about what can affect systems and what these systems are: that is, what problems need solving and how can research solve these. This approach does not at all obviate the need for the basic research that usually motivates the academic research community but rather encourages the types of targeted research that can both address practical problems as well as result in new and fundamental understandings.
The depth of analysis and the coverage of topics in Chapter 5 of the Action Plan (following from the fifth goal of the Strategy: “Improve Space-Weather Services through Advancing Understanding and Forecasting”) is impressive for its analyses and coverage of the measurements, data, and models that will be required to ensure security under space weather events of all types—from huge geomagnetic storm-produced telluric currents initiated by coronal mass ejections to solar radio-produced outages of GPS receivers to radiation effects by magnetosphere, solar and galactic radiation to satellite drag effects from Earth's atmosphere and ionosphere. The Action Plan sets deliverables and timelines for the relevant agencies involved with each action. And importantly, the Strategy and the Action Plan recognizes the deep academic and private expertise that exists across the nation. As such, there is strong encouragement for the involvement of academia and the commercial sector in addressing the six strategies, and especially those involved in acquiring and disseminating needed data, analyses, and models.
Very few data sets record the solar-terrestrial system over decadal, let alone century, time scales. Other than sporadically reported sightings of the aurora in various cultures over hundreds of years, the most lengthy quantitative data are the sunspot series from the eighteenth century, magnetic field measurements from the midnineteenth century, and neutron monitors from the midtwentieth century. The Action Plan stresses the need for baseline data and continuity of measurements. The Plan identifies not only the most obvious space assets, such as in situ and solar corona measurements at the L1 Lagrangian point and specific currently flying infrastructure such as the LASCO coronagraph on the SOHO spacecraft, but also ground-based measurements, such as those of the galactic cosmic ray fluxes by neutron monitors. The Action Plan addresses a key issue related to understanding telluric currents induced by fluctuating ionosphere currents. In this case, the need of magnetotelluric measurements is emphasized, with the northeastern portion of the nation identified as of initial particular importance.
The Action Plan specifies a yearly assessment of the progress and a continued prioritization of activities, measurements, and models. Such continued assessment (while not defined) would provide the opportunity to initiate and incorporate new technologies and models as opportunities present themselves. The continued assessment would also be able to incorporate potential vulnerabilities of new electrical technologies as they come into use. It would be highly advisable to have outside (of government) participants involved in the yearly assessments.
In all, the OSTP-supported National Space Weather Strategy and Action Plan are impressive and timely documents. They are what are needed for the nation to prepare itself for space weather events of all types, affecting all manners of modern technical systems, and of technologies not yet envisioned.
Space Weather Journal, Vol. 13, Issue 12, December 2015
The increase in supercomputing strength will allow NOAA to roll out a series model upgrades throughout 2016 that cut across NOAA’s earth prediction mission areas. The increase in supercomputing capacity comes via a $44.5 million investment using NOAA's operational high performance computing contract with IBM, $25 million of which was provided through the Disaster Relief Appropriations Act of 2013 related to the consequences of Hurricane Sandy. Cray Inc., headquartered in Seattle, serves as a subcontractor for IBM providing the new systems to NOAA.
The AHI retrieves Himawari-8 satellite data from the Japanese Meteorological Agency (JMA) via NESDIS STAR every 10 minutes in slabs as shown in the image. Processing on IDP converts the data to tiles in netCDF4 for use in AWIPS.
NCEP Centers such as AWC, OPC, and WPC and Weather Forecast Offices such as Alaska Region, Hawaii, and Guam now rely on 10-minute H-8 data operationally to produce their forecasts.
The Category 4 hurricane was devastating the east-central Bahamas and there was great concern the storm could impact the U.S.
The 30-minute event with Fugate and NHC Director Rick Knabb was broadcast as a field interview so that TV networks could wrap sound bites into their evening news packages regarding the hurricanes. Questions were asked by an on-site media producer and an Associated Press correspondent. The Weather Channel carried the entire broadcast live.
Hurricane Patricia sets new record for air pressure and wind speed
By Dennis Feltgen
Public Affairs Officer
NOAA Communications & External Affairs
National Hurricane Center
Records are made to be broken, and the 2015 hurricane season was no exception. In the early morning hours of October 23rd, a U.S. Air Force Reserve Hurricane Hunter aircraft flying over the eastern Pacific Ocean into the eye of Hurricane Patricia found a maximum near 175 knots (200 mph). It made Patricia the strongest hurricane on record in the National Hurricane Center's area of responsibility (AOR) which includes the Atlantic and the eastern North Pacific basins. In addition, the minimum central pressure estimated from the aircraft data was 880 millibars, the lowest ever measured in the AOR.
We would like to deeply acknowledge the Air Force Hurricane Hunters for the observations establishing Patricia as a record-breaking hurricane. Clearly, without their data, we would never have known just how strong a tropical cyclone it was.
The graphics, developed by Dr. Patrick Marsh, SPC Techniques Development Meteorologist and working closely with Somer Erickson, FEMA liaison to the SPC, are customized as needed based on WFO or regional office input. The graphics are designed to better communicate the severe weather risk, and response thus far has been overwhelmingly positive. Like the FEMA- and state-centric graphics, these images are produced immediately following any change to the Day 1, Day 2, and Day 3 Convective Outlook, and are typically available on the SPC website within 5 minutes of dissemination of our Convective Outlook.
Active Weather Patterns Bring Busy Close to 2015: The last week of 2015 proved to be exceptionally active and deadly, with several days of severe thunderstorms and tornadoes. The two most active days were December 23rd, when several tornadoes struck northern Mississippi and western Tennessee resulting in 13 deaths and a number of injuries, and December 26th, when a violent tornado struck eastern portions of the Dallas-Fort Worth Metroplex. Eleven tornado-related deaths have been reported, eight of which were in vehicles. SPC outlooks began highlighting the severe weather potential 4 days in advance of both days, with subsequent outlooks accurately reflecting the heightened risk areas. Tornado watches were issued well in advance, and coordination with local NWS offices was very effective in ensuring consistent risk communication. By the end of the month, the December death toll from tornadoes (24) was the highest since December 1953, when 49 fatalities were reported.
SPC participation in Annual Steamboat Weather Summit: SPC Warning Coordination Meteorologist Greg Carbin was an invited speaker to the 27th Annual Steamboat Weather Summit in mid-January. This small conference attracts on-camera meteorologists from across the nation. Workshop-content talks are delivered by weather experts from the government, academic, and the private sector. Greg's talk highlighted a few of the significant tornadoes occurring in 2015 with a special emphasis on web-based tools developed by SPC for use by broadcasts meteorologists. Unlike the big conferences where discussion and questions wait till the end, this is a week of dialog. The expert-attendee interaction continues during sessions and in free time. Getting to know the presenters and the other attendees makes this a great conference.
SPC interactions with Southern Region MICs on NWS Decision Support Services (DSS). SPC Operations Chief Bill Bunting collaborated with Southern Region MIC-HICs at their annual Meeting in Fort Worth the week of November 16th. A central theme of the meeting was the continued evolution of NWS decision support services (DSS), with several presentations and small group discussions focusing on the benefits and challenges of remote and on site DSS. The importance of collaboration and message consistency was a recurring topic, including effective collaboration between WFOs and the SPC in advance of severe thunderstorm events. Bill provided details on positive feedback the SPC has received regarding changes in late 2014 to the Convective Outlooks, and updated the group on future changes in SPC services that are being developed. Those include the introduction of short-term severe weather outlooks, and adding an afternoon update to the Day 3 Convective Outlook.
The Winter Weather Outlook shows the probability for a plowable snowfall (~ greater than 3 inches) for the contiguous United States in the medium range time frame, and can serve as the basis for collaboration among all NWS forecast offices and National Centers. The product is novel, as it uses the deterministic forecast created by forecasters and pairs it with an automated multi-model ensemble to provide the daily probability of exceeding 0.25" liquid equivalent snowfall. The product has two key features – extending daily winter weather forecasts out to a week, and doing so in a probabilistic manner. Combined, these features give emergency managers, the media, and the public information to mitigate issues that may arise from hazardous wintry conditions.
WPC Provides Historic Forecasts and Decision Support for Extreme South Carolina Rains
The rains of October 2-4 in South Carolina were historic and deadly, with 17 fatalities directly related to the flooding. In many ways, the forecasts themselves were historic, predicting a 1 in 1000 year recurrence interval event before the rain started.
This message of a historic event was collaborated among WPC, WFOs, RFCs, with 7 formal collaboration calls. WPC crafted the national DSS message that ‘regardless of Joaquin’s track, extreme rainfall was likely for South Carolina.’ This message was aggressively relayed to FEMA, a diverse variety of 9 national media outlets, and Congressional staff. FEMA stated, “Some folks initially questioned the 15+ inches on the map, but you put the severity of this situation in context that allowed emergency managers to prepare and take swift action, even with the incredible forecast uncertainties for Joaquin.” As the Washington Post stated, “…it’s hard to imagine how forecasters could have done a better job in warning about this flood event.”
It is clear WPC, WFOs, and RFCs set a new high bar for forecast accuracy and DSS for extreme events. The event was highlighted at a White House Office of Science and Technology briefing as an example of how Weather-Ready Nation is becoming a reality.