5
Road Map for the Future

The Vision. In 2025, weather and environmental information will be used routinely in making individual, business, and governmental decisions. This information will flow through an expanding network of providers in the private sector and in government at the federal, state, and local levels. It will be provided to users as products and services that address particular needs (such as air quality or traffic congestion reports and forecasts, as well as weather reports).

The NWS will be responsible for the basic infrastructure to support state-of-the-art weather information services and will be the leading provider of weather and climate data for the environmental information network. To fulfill its mission, the NWS will assimilate data from more diverse and technically advanced observing systems into sophisticated analysis and modeling tools. The NWS will work in partnership with the research community and a greatly expanded provider community to provide timely information based on the latest scientific understanding of weather phenomena.

In the year 2025, weather products and services will be vastly improved and substantially more useful to society. Advanced technology will be a vital part of every step of the observation, forecast, and delivery process, guided by the dynamic and dramatic positive reinforcement between progress in science and confirmation of new scientific understanding through improved predictive power. Advances associated with the NWS modernization are already fostering a revolution in the value of environmental data. In the emerging information economy, the value of this environmental information (observations, forecasts, and the knowledge of how to apply these data) will draw resources of human talent and capital investment to innovations at every step in the process: from observing systems to computing capability and modeling techniques, to articulation of specialized applications fed by massive flows of timely data.

Based on the information in the preceding chapters, the panel has developed the following recommendations on how the NWS can participate in and foster improvements in weather and environmental services. The recommendations appear under four headings: realizing potential benefits to the nation; applying enabling science and technologies; merging weather information services into environmental information services; and meeting organizational challenges.

Realizing Benefits to the Nation

The formal NWS modernization and restructuring has provided the foundation for the NWS to become a dynamic, bold, responsive weather service that can lead the way in realizing enormous benefits to the nation. To meet the challenges that lie ahead, the NWS must evolve in response to a rapidly changing environment. It must support and exploit advances in science and technology, while working through a variety of public and private partnerships to provide broad weather and environmental information services.

Recommendation 1. The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and the National Weather Service should more aggressively support and capitalize on advances in science and technology to increase the value of weather and related environmental information to society.

Applying Enabling Science and Technologies

Ongoing research and development are necessary to provide the scientific foundation for improving operational observations and predictions and the resulting user-oriented



The National Academies | 500 Fifth St. N.W. | Washington, D.C. 20001
Copyright © National Academy of Sciences. All rights reserved.
Terms of Use and Privacy Statement



Below are the first 10 and last 10 pages of uncorrected machine-read text (when available) of this chapter, followed by the top 30 algorithmically extracted key phrases from the chapter as a whole.
Intended to provide our own search engines and external engines with highly rich, chapter-representative searchable text on the opening pages of each chapter. Because it is UNCORRECTED material, please consider the following text as a useful but insufficient proxy for the authoritative book pages.

Do not use for reproduction, copying, pasting, or reading; exclusively for search engines.

OCR for page 62
--> 5 Road Map for the Future The Vision. In 2025, weather and environmental information will be used routinely in making individual, business, and governmental decisions. This information will flow through an expanding network of providers in the private sector and in government at the federal, state, and local levels. It will be provided to users as products and services that address particular needs (such as air quality or traffic congestion reports and forecasts, as well as weather reports). The NWS will be responsible for the basic infrastructure to support state-of-the-art weather information services and will be the leading provider of weather and climate data for the environmental information network. To fulfill its mission, the NWS will assimilate data from more diverse and technically advanced observing systems into sophisticated analysis and modeling tools. The NWS will work in partnership with the research community and a greatly expanded provider community to provide timely information based on the latest scientific understanding of weather phenomena. In the year 2025, weather products and services will be vastly improved and substantially more useful to society. Advanced technology will be a vital part of every step of the observation, forecast, and delivery process, guided by the dynamic and dramatic positive reinforcement between progress in science and confirmation of new scientific understanding through improved predictive power. Advances associated with the NWS modernization are already fostering a revolution in the value of environmental data. In the emerging information economy, the value of this environmental information (observations, forecasts, and the knowledge of how to apply these data) will draw resources of human talent and capital investment to innovations at every step in the process: from observing systems to computing capability and modeling techniques, to articulation of specialized applications fed by massive flows of timely data. Based on the information in the preceding chapters, the panel has developed the following recommendations on how the NWS can participate in and foster improvements in weather and environmental services. The recommendations appear under four headings: realizing potential benefits to the nation; applying enabling science and technologies; merging weather information services into environmental information services; and meeting organizational challenges. Realizing Benefits to the Nation The formal NWS modernization and restructuring has provided the foundation for the NWS to become a dynamic, bold, responsive weather service that can lead the way in realizing enormous benefits to the nation. To meet the challenges that lie ahead, the NWS must evolve in response to a rapidly changing environment. It must support and exploit advances in science and technology, while working through a variety of public and private partnerships to provide broad weather and environmental information services. Recommendation 1. The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and the National Weather Service should more aggressively support and capitalize on advances in science and technology to increase the value of weather and related environmental information to society. Applying Enabling Science and Technologies Ongoing research and development are necessary to provide the scientific foundation for improving operational observations and predictions and the resulting user-oriented

OCR for page 62
--> forecast products. The principles embodied in the USWRP (U.S. Weather Research Program) are well suited to guide scientific research in directions that are likely to reap benefits for users of weather and climate information. One of the foremost of these principles is that the program's research agenda should be shaped by a careful assessment of the most important weather-related needs of society. Moreover, the USWRP has established mechanisms for a continuing dialogue among users of weather information, providers of weather information, and the research and development community. In addition, several other national and international research programs are highly relevant to weather service operations. These include the World Weather Research Program, which is closely coordinated with the USWRP, and the U.S. Global Change Research Program and the World Climate Research Program, which address important aspects of climate and the environment that are integral to the NWS' s role in environmental prediction. The NWS should expand its participation in and support of these programs. Traditionally, NWS research and development activities have been undertaken in the national centers. In the modernized weather service, the SOO (science and operations officer) and DOH (development and operations hydrologist) positions at field offices provide an opportunity to extend research and development activities to the field offices. These individuals can initiate and conduct applications oriented research and development at the local level, in concert with local universities and the broader research community. Recommendation 2. The National Weather Service should be an active partner and participant in national and international research enterprises in weather, hydrology, climate, and environmental sciences. Advances in scientific understanding and technologies will provide abundant opportunities for the NWS to make incremental improvements in its products and services. An evolutionary approach to upgrading its operational systems, rather than episodic radical overhauls separated by years of little improvement, will enable the NWS to avoid obsolescence, minimize risk, and implement new ideas and technologies on an ongoing basis. An evolutionary approach will also eliminate the organizational trauma associated with episodic overhauls. The rapid development, testing, and implementation of new algorithms and techniques will require sound science and proficient engineering. Skilled scientists at NWS field offices (represented in the current personnel structure by the SOOs and DOHs) working with universities, research institutions, and the private sector could help develop and incorporate advances into NWS operations efficiently and effectively. Recommendation 3. The National Weather Service should commit to and plan for ongoing and timely incorporation of scientific and technical advances in the operational weather observation, analysis, and prediction system. To implement its commitment, the National Weather Service should take the following steps: Develop technologies, in cooperation with universities and the public and private sectors, that enhance systems for observing weather phenomena and for assimilating and analyzing resulting data. Evaluate, on a quantitative basis, alternative technologies and approaches for the development, testing, and deployment of a cost-effective system of synergistic observing instruments and platforms, incorporating the principle that integrated measurements taken by multiple sources using diverse techniques can provide a better estimate of a physical quantity than any one instrument alone. Test and evaluate new forecasting concepts and systems expeditiously, through rapid prototyping at the appropriate centers or selected forecast offices. Maintain a research staff of sufficient size and expertise at the national centers to develop new forecast techniques and products that further their broad national missions. Work with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration to strengthen National Weather Service interactions with the National Environmental Satellite, Data, and Information Service and the Environmental Research Laboratories, ensuring that their combined activities are coherent, systematic, and mutually supportive. Work with the academic community on a continuous basis to improve numerical weather prediction models. Maintain a strong scientific capability at the field offices to conduct application-oriented research and development at the local level (for example, through the science and operations officers and development and operations hydrologists). Provide appropriate computing capabilities at field offices to ensure that new technologies can be tested and applied. Numerical modeling of the coupled atmosphere-oceanland system will be the core of weather and climate prediction. Improving forecasts requires the ability to assimilate a broad array of initializing data at higher resolution and accuracy into models that better represent the underlying physical processes. Running these complex models and testing their results quickly enough to provide timely forecasts will require increased computational power. To realize the potential benefits of timely, more reliable forecasts at higher resolution, the NWS will need the most advanced and powerful supercomputing capability available. As the diversity,

OCR for page 62
--> density, and coverage of observations increase, and as more realistic models at higher resolutions are developed, any shortfall in computational power will increasingly restrict the ability of NWS centers to realize the potential benefits of available observing and forecasting technologies. Recommendation 4. Congress and the administration should provide the resources needed by the National Weather Service to regain and maintain the state-of-the-art supercomputing capability required to support the advanced analysis and modeling systems that are fundamental to the nation's weather and climate forecast systems. Merging Weather Information Services into Environmental Information Services The increasing accuracy and specificity of weather, climate, and hydrologic information will create opportunities for broader environmental information services. NWS forecast and warning services will be an essential component of the information on weather, climate, hydrology, space weather, air quality, and other environmental factors used by the expanded provider network to serve a variety of economic and other societal needs. The information services and products provided by this network will be directed toward specific users, distributed through broadly based environmental information dissemination services, and evaluated on how well they meet user needs. Recommendation 5. The National Weather Service should collaborate with a variety of partner-providers to integrate weather and related information into comprehensive environmental information services. Organizational Issues Now that the formal modernization program is almost complete, the NWS has established a strategic planning exercise to estimate its future needs. This exercise must become an ongoing process that seeks the views, opinions, and assistance of the broad external community of scientists and technologists, secondary weather service providers, and representatives of end-user groups. Meeting changes in user needs and upgrading technology and processes to improve efficiencies and effectiveness will require stable long-term funding that is adequate to implement long-range plans based on validated requirements. The current NWS/NOAA budgeting process has only a two-year planning horizon. The obscurity of the current budget structure creates difficulties in understanding the level of resources committed to specific functional areas. Irregular or inadequate support is disruptive and expensive in both human and financial terms; it limits the quality and extent of services and denies potential benefits to the user community. Recommendation 6. The National Weather Service should perform strategic long-range planning for orderly development of the infrastructure and technology that support the services for its constituents. Congress, the Office of Management and Budget, the U.S. Department of Commerce, and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration should provide stable and adequate funding to the National Weather Service consistent with its needs and plans. The diverse and rapidly evolving user community, advancing technology, and changing relationships among members of the weather community will require a parallel evolution in the organizational structures of NOAA and the relationships among its components, including NWS, the National Environmental Satellite, Data, and Information Service, and the Office of Oceanic and Atmospheric Research. This evolution will need to occur at all levels of organization, including the field offices and national centers. The organizational structure must be sufficiently flexible to exploit new ideas, respond to changing user roles, and manage change. Recommendation 7. The National Weather Service should routinely examine and anticipate the needs of primary customers and ultimate users. In the context of changing requirements, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration should periodically adapt its organizational structure and operating processes to foster effective relationships among the National Weather Service, the National Environmental Satellite, Data, and Information Service, and the Office of Oceanic and Atmospheric Research. The atmosphere and oceans transcend national boundaries. Realizing the predictive capabilities envisioned in this report will require higher-quality, higher-resolution global observations. The creation of a global database of unprecedented quality, coverage, reliability, and breadth will require unprecedented cooperation by major data-gathering nations. The NWS has historically supported a global observing network that provides data freely and openly to all countries. Recommendation 8. The National Weather Service should maintain and strengthen its leadership role in seeking international cooperation for the free and open exchange of weather and climate data for the benefit of users in all nations. The adaptation of emerging science and technology to the evolving needs of the NWS will require a scientific staff that is informed on the latest understanding of weather, hydrology, and climate phenomena and is experienced in applying this knowledge. The heavy investment in technology for NWS operations will require a technical support staff that is expert in the operation,

OCR for page 62
--> BOX 5-1 Criteria for Selecting Science and Technology Initiatives General criteria should be applied to all initiatives and new or significantly improved programs and systems. The specific criteria apply to the acquisition of new observing systems, computing facilities, the development of new products, and education and training programs. General Criteria Does the initiative support the mission of the NWS? What are the benefits of the initiative to the NWS and to society? Are the benefits worth the cost? Are the scientific, technical, and political risks acceptable? Will the initiative build partnerships with the academic community, the private sector, and the international community? Have disinterested individuals (e.g., from outside the NWS or implementing organizations) with broad expertise and viewpoints reviewed the initiative? Observing Systems Will the new system add value to the analysis, forecasting and warning process (i.e., produce better forecasts)? Will the new system reduce data gaps? Will the new system strengthen the overall observational system through synergism with existing or future systems? Will the new system effectively replace older or more expensive systems? Will the new system reduce the risk of failure of older systems? Computer Facilities Will the new computer facilities permit more efficient handling of observations or the operation of more accurate and useful forecast models with higher resolution for significant weather? Will the new computer facilities more effectively assimilate and analyze existing and future data sets, thereby improving forecasts and forecast products? Will the new computer facilities support improved climate forecasts of use to NWS customers? New NWS Products Is there an existing need or demand for the product? Is it likely that a new need or market will be created that will provide a useful service to society? Education and Training Will the activity contribute to a better-educated, better-trained workforce? Will the activity contribute to better forecasts, warnings, and other services? Will the activity contribute to the long-term professional growth and versatility of the NWS workforce? maintenance, and upgrading of this technology. The NWS staff must be technically sophisticated, trained in the behavioral tools of teamwork and consensus building, and adept at monitoring and improving their performance. Recommendation 9. The National Weather Service should provide for the ongoing professional development of a knowledgeable, flexible workforce through continuing education and training, taking advantage of appropriate university resources. For NWS customers to apply NWS products and services effectively, the primary customers in the environmental information provider network and the ultimate consumers (organizations and individuals) must appreciate the role of the NWS in enabling and fostering the provider network. Well informed partner-providers and users will support the NWS in obtaining the resources to advance the vision of improved weather services described in Part I of this report. Recommendation 10. The National Weather Service should participate with other public institutions, professional

OCR for page 62
--> societies, and the private sector in educating the general public and specialized users about the causes and consequences of weather-related environmental phenomena; the utility and limitations of environmental observations, forecasts, and warnings; and the roles of the National Weather Service and its partners in providing this information. Setting Priorities for Science and Technology Initiatives The panel has emphasized the importance of upgrading NWS facilities and services on a continual rather than episodic basis. This evolutionary upgrading will require the NWS to stay abreast of all possible new opportunities, while making decisions about which ones to pursue. As part of its task, the panel was asked to suggest criteria for setting priorities among proposed science and technology initiatives. In Box 5-1, the panel suggests both general and area-specific criteria based on the recommendations in this chapter and information in the report. The panel realizes that all opportunities and initiatives carry some risk. The criteria assume that the initiative being evaluated will be technically successful. However, new initiatives must not only be feasible from a scientific and technical point of view, they must also contribute to the NWS mission, meet societal needs, and be cost-effective.