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Toward a New National Weather Service ASSESSMENT OF NEXRAD COVERAGE AND ASSOCIATED WEATHER SERVICES Prepared by the NEXRAD Pane} National Weaker Service Modernization Committee of the Commission on Engineering and Technical Systems National Research Council NATIONAL ACADEMY PRESS Washington, D.C. June 1995
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NOTICE: The project that is the subject of this report was approved by the Governing Board of the National Research Council, whose members are drawn from the councils of the National Academy of Sciences, the National Academy of Engineering, and the Institute of Medicine. The members of the committee responsible for the report were chosen for their special competencies and with regard for appropriate balance. This report has been reviewed by a group other than the authors according to procedures approved by a Report Review Committee consisting of members of the National Academy of Sciences, the National Academy of Engineering, and the Institute of Medicine. The National Academy of Sciences is a private, nonprofit, self-perpetuating society of distinguished scholars engaged in scientific and engineering research, dedicated to the furtherance of science and technology and to their use for the general welfare. Upon the authority of the charter granted to it by the Congress in 1863, the Academy has a mandate that requires it to advise the federal government on scientific and technical matters. Dr. Bruce Alberts is president of the National Academy of Sciences. The National Academy of Engineering was established in 1964, under the charter of the National Academy of Sciences, as a parallel organization of outstanding engineers. It is autonomous in its administration and in the selection of its members, sharing with the National Academy of Sciences the responsibility for advising the federal government. The National Academy of Engineering also sponsors engineering programs aimed at meeting national needs, encourages education and research, and recognizes the superior achievements of engineers. Dr. Harold Liebowitz is president of the National Academy of Engineering. The Institute of Medicine was established in 1970 by the National Academy of Sciences to secure the services of eminent members of appropriate professions in the examination of policy matters pertaining to the health of the public. The Institute acts under the responsibility given to the National Academy of Sciences by its congressional charter to be an adviser to the federal government and, upon its own initiative, to identify issues of medical care, research, and education. Dr. Kenneth I. Shine is president of the Institute of Medicine. The National Research Council was organized by the National Academy of Sciences in 1916 to associate the broad community of science and technology with the Academy's purposes of furthering knowledge and advising the federal government. Functioning in accordance with general policies determined by the Academy, the Council has become the principal operating agency of both the National Academy of Sciences and the National Academy of Engineering in providing services to the government, the public, and the scientific and engineering communities. The Council is administered jointly by both Academies and the Institute of Medicine. Dr. Bruce Alberts and Dr. Harold Liebowitz are chairman and vice chairman, respectively, of the National Research Council. This study was supported by Contract No. 50-DGNW-0-00041 between the National Academy of Sciences and the Department of Commerce, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. Copynght 1995 by the National Academy of Sciences. All rights reserved. Available in limited supply from: Transition Program Office National Weather Service, NOAA 1325 East West Highway Silver Spring, MD 20910 (301) 713-1090 Printed in the United States of America
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PANEL ON THE ASSESSMENT OF NEXRAD COVERAGE and ASSOCIATED WEATHER SERVICES WILLIAM E. GORDON, Distinguished Professor Emeritus Rice University, Chairman Space Physics and Electrical Engineering, JAMES E. EVANS, Leader, Weather Sensing Group, Lincoln Laboratory, Massachusetts Institute of Technology ROBERT 'l. SERAFIN, Director, National Center for Atmospheric Research PAUL L. SMITH, Director, Institute of Atmospheric Sciences, South Dakota School of Mines and Technology MARILYN M. WOLFSON, Staff Member, Weather Sensing Group, Lincoln Laboratory, Massachusetts Institute of Technology Advisors R. 'JEFFREY REELER, Research Engineer, National Center for Atmospheric Research BLAMES W. WILSON, Senior Scientist, National Center for Atmospheric Research Pane' Staff FLOYD F. HAUTH, Study Director MERCEDES ILAGAN, Study Associate COURTLAND S. LEWIS, Consultant · · - 111
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NATIONAL WEATHER SERVICE MODERNIZATION COMMITTEE CHARLES L. HOSLER, '1R., Professor of Meteorology Emeritus, Pennsylvania State University, Chairman (term ended January 3 i, 1995) RICHARD A. ANTHES, President, University Corporation for Atmospheric Research WILLIAM D. BONNER, Director of Programs, University Corporation for Atmospheric Research (term began February I, 1995) JOHN P. BRADLEY, President, Murray and Trettel, Inc. ROBERT F. BRAMMER, Vice President and Director, TASC (term began February i, 1995) KENNETH C. CRAWFORD, Director, Oklahoma Climatological Survey JOHN A. DUTTON, Dean, College of Earth and Mineral Sciences, Pennsylvania State University (term ended January 3I, 1995) DARA ENTEKHABI, Associate Professor, Hydroclimatology, Massachusetts Institute of Technology GEORGE J. G1,EGHORN, Vice President and Chief Engineer (retired), TRW Space and Technology Group WILLIAM E. GORDON, Distinguished Professor Emeritus, Space Physics and Electrical Engineering, Rice University JENANNE L. MURPHY, Vice President, Hughes Information Technology Corporation (term began February I, 1995) VERONICA F. NIEVA, Vice President and Director, Organizational and Management Research Group, WESTAT, Tnc. ROBERT if. SERAFIN, Director, National Center for Atmospheric Research (term as Chairman began February I, 1995) MARILYN M. WOLFSON, Staff Member, Weather Sensing Group, Lincoln Laboratory, Massachusetts Institute of Technology ARTHUR I. ZYGlELBAUM, Senior Member of the Technical Staff, Office of the Director, let Propulsion Laboratory, California Institute of Technology Committee Staff FLOYD F. HAUTH, Study Director (began May, 1994) MERCEDES ILAGAN, Study Associate 1V
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Preface This report responds to a request from the Secretary of Commerce who, in a letter dated August Id, 1994, asked the National Research Council's (NRC's) National Weather Service Modernization Committee (NWS MC) to conduct a study on the adequacy of coverage of the Next Generation Weather Radar (NEXRAD3 with respect to a congressional requirement that the system result in "no degradation of service." This request was further amended by an October 5, 1994, agreement between the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) and Congressman Bud Cramer of Alabama. Accordingly, the NRC established a pane! of experts to (~) review the new radar's technical specifications and network spatial coverage, (2) evaluate and compare the detection capabilities and coverage of the pre-NEXRAD and NEXRAD radars, (3) assess the performance of both networks from the standpoint of significant weather events, and (4) establish general criteria for evaluating the adequacy of coverage of the NEXRAD network and identifying areas where service might be degraded when the old radars are decommissioned. A site-by-site evaluation using these criteria was excluded from the panel's task, but the data and procedures to conduct such evaluations are included in this report. The NWSMC has been functioning for more than 5 years under contracts between the NOAA and the NRC. Five substantive reports have been issued about the ongoing modernization of the National Weather Service (NWS) and various aspects of its planning ant! implementation. The NEXRAD program has been evaluated and reported upon in four of the five reports (NRC, 1991, 1992, 1994a, and 1994b), and certification criteria for critical phases of the modernization were addressed in NRC, 1993. The pane! includes three NWSMC members and two additional engineers and scientists chosen for their special competencies and with regard for appropriate balance of viewpoints and expertise. Two special technical advisors, R. Jeffrey Keeler and lames Wilson, participated fully in all pane! activities and contributed substantially to the written report. The pane! conducted five formal meetings and several informal, opportune meetings to gather and analyze technical data and other information, to develop evaluation criteria, and to assess the adequacy of weather radar coverage for the nation. As part of this effort, the pane} developed criteria for use by me NOAA to adjudicate possible degradation issues related to decommissioning of existing radars and services provided by associated weather offices. The pane} appreciates Me cooperation and extensive assistance provided by members of NOAA: the NEXRAD Joint System Program Office (ISPO), the NEXRAD Operational Support Facility, and the NWS Headquarters staff. In particular, the pane! recognizes the provision of technical materials and special brief ings by David Smiley, Robert Elvander, furls Petriceks (SR] international, contractor to the NEXRAD ISPO), Donald Burgess, Paul Polger, and Richard Lane. Special thanks also to the Publications Department, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Lincoln Laboratory, for all of the illustrations of weather phenomena and to Steven Zubrick, Weather Service Forecast Office, Sterling, Virginia, for providing He NEXRAD display for the cover. v
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V1 Preface The pane! is also indebted to Peter Ray, of Florida State University, for his briefing about related studies; and to the many NWS radar operators, university, and private-sector researchers who reviewed information about radar characteristics and the ability of various radars to detect significant weather phenomena across the United States. The pane! thanks He members of the NWSMC for their review of the report and for Heir support and guidance during its preparation. Finally, the pane! acknowledges the excellent support of three NRC staff members- Floyd F. Hauth, Study Director; Mercedes Ilagan, Study Associate; and Susan Coppinger, Administrative Assistant as well as that of consultant/writer, Courtiand S. Lewis, in carrying out the panel's work. Their services in making logistical arrangements, conducting liaison with federal agencies, universities, and the private sector and in preparing the report were invaluable. William E. Gordon Chairman, NEXRAD Pane! National Weather Service Modernization Committee
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Contents Executive Summary 1 Introduction Background: Modernization of the National Weather Service, 5 Charge to the Committee, 6 Study Process, 7 2 Radar Network Configuration and Detection Capabilities Network Coverage at 10,000 Feet Above Site Level, 8 Calculated Versus Observed Detection Ranges, 1 ~ Comparison of Detection Coverage by Pre-NEXRAD and NEXRAD Networks, 18 Impact of NEXRAD Communications Links and Forecast Office Staffing, 35 Comparison of Weather Services: Pre-NEXRAD and NEXRAD Composite System Considerations, 36 Network Considerations, 37 Warning Performance, 39 Guidelines for Assessing Possible Degradation of Service in Specific Areas Consideration of Public Concerns, 47 Assessment Criteria, 49 5 References Acronyms Glossary Conclusions and Recommendations Conclusions, 51 Recommendations, 52 Appendixes A Criteria for Evaluation of a Weaker Radar System, 65 B Documents Requesting NRC Study, 87 ·e V11 1 4 8 36 47 51 54 58 59 63
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· · - V111 Contents C D E F National Research Council's Statement of Task for the Pane! on the Adequacy of NEXRAD, 95 Drawings and Descriptions of Weather Phenomena, 96 Reviewers and Contributors to Detection Tables 2-l and 2-2, 102 Distance of Old Radar from Nearest NEXRAD in Descending Order by Distance, 103