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NCEP Quarterly Newsletter - FY17Q2
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Over the first weekend in March, the Aviation Weather Center (AWC) represented the National Weather Service at the International Women in Aviation’s 28th annual conference in Orlando, FL. AWC’s Executive Officer LCDR Rebecca Waddington and Meteorologist Amy Harless were joined by Center Weather Service Unit Meteorologists Vilma Harmon and Angela Downing as well as NOAA Corps Pilot LT Lindsey Norman to staff the NWS booth for the three-day event.

Thousands of professional pilots and dispatchers stopped by the booth to learn about NWS aviation related products and services. Dispatchers were particularly interested in submitting online pilot reports (PIREPs), while pilots focused on forecast products. LCDR Waddington gave a presentation during the education sessions and taught pilots how to use the AWC’s new Graphical Forecasts for Aviation product. The majority of attendees were very impressed and excited to start using the new tool and provided feedback with potential improvements. The Aviation Weather Center attends this large aviation gathering each year and is excited to represent the NWS at next year’s conference in Nevada.

NWS booth set up at Women in Aviation's Conference
NWS booth set up at Women in Aviation's Conference

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The Aviation Weather Center’s Graphical Forecasts for Aviation (GFA) becomes operational Thursday, April 13th.  Addressing a National Transportation Safety Board recommendation from May 2014, the GFA pulls together weather forecasts impacting aviation interests from all National Weather Service offices into one website

The GFA were created in response to a formal request by the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) to discontinue production of the textual Area Forecasts (FA). The FAA recognizes that, given modern advances within NWS, the legacy text FA is no longer the best source of en route flight planning weather information.  The graphical product includes observations and forecasts valid for the continental United States that provide data critical for aviation safety overlaid on high-resolution base-maps.

The GFA webpage can be found at www.aviationweather.gov/gfa.

Experimental aviation forecasts for icing
Experimental aviation forecasts for icing

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On Tuesday, March 21, 2017, NCEP upgraded the North American Model (NAM) and discontinued the Downscaled GFS by NAM Extension (DGEX) Forecast System at 1200 GMT. Changes to the NAM forecast model include resolution increases to 3km for the CONUS nest, 3 km for Alaska nest, and a decrease to 1.5 km for the fire weather nest.

Other changes include more frequent model physics calls, radiation updates, and specific humidity advection. NAM total surface percipitation The BMJ convection scheme was changed to improve the parent model QPF bias; the F-A microphysics was changed to improve stratiform precipitation, anvil reflectivity, and reduce areas of light/noisy reflectivity over the oceans.

The effect of frozen soil on transpiration and soil evaporation was changed to reduce a cool season cold/wet model bias. The radiation/microphysics were changed to reduce incoming surface shortwave radiation which reduces a warm-season 2-m temperature bias. NDAS data assimilation was replaced with 3-h analysis updates for the 12 km parent domain with a 6-h data assimilation cycle with hourly analysis updates for the 12 km parent and the 3 km CONUS/Alaska nests.

The Hawaii/Puerto Rico/Fire weather nests will be initialized from the 12-km first guess at the end of 6-h assimilation cycle. Lightning data and radar reflectivity-derived temperature tendencies were added to the diabatic digital filter initialization, which is now run prior to the NAM forecast. Additional aircraft data, satellite radiance data, GPS occultation data, and satellite winds were added to the assimilation. The 557th Weather Wing snow depth analysis was reinstated, a new lake temperature climatology for small lakes was added for the CONUS, Alaska and fire weather nests. Terrain smoothing was reduced in all domains. Tropical cyclone relocation for the 12 km parent domain will now be performed at the start of the 6-h catchup cycle and for the NAM forecast first guess. Grids from all nests will now be output hourly out to 60 hours.


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IBM will deliver a Phase 3 Dell x86 EDR IB based solution that will augment the current IBM systems and provide the foundation for adding a Phase 4 Dell system in 2019. The Dell systems are based on the Intel Xeon E5 Broadwell processor family, PCI Express Gen 3, DDR4-2400 memory, and Mellanox Enhanced Data Rate (EDR) IB.

The proposed systems are configured with IBM ESS storage  with Metadata separation   and GPFS parallel file systems. Dell will partner with IBM to deploy the incremental capacity into the existing framework.

Picture of server configuration

IBM will augment the IBM system storage to meet the 10.36 Peta Bytes of useable storage requirement for Phase 3 and will deliver 10.36 PB @ 162 GB /sec .

Phase 3 is scheduled for production use by Jan 2018.


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On March 18, 2017, Weather Forecast Office (WFO) Miami and the National Hurricane Center (NHC) held a successful Open House of its joint facility in Miami. An estimated 800-1000 people turned out during the four-hour event which featured a live weather balloon launch and tours of the NHC and WFO Miami operational areas. Kids doing science activityWFO Miami demonstrated a "tornado in a bottle" as well as providing activities and weather awareness/preparedness brochures for adults and children.NHC Tour

In addition, there were educational exhibits from the following community partners: Miami-Dade County Office of Emergency Management, NOAA/Hurricane Research Division, American Red Cross Miami Area Chapter, Florida International University’s International Hurricane Research Center, CoCoRaHS, Weatherworks, Inc., and local Amateur Radio operators. Two raffles were conducted, with prizes including NOAA Weather Radios, flashlights, and a CoCoRaHS-provided rain gauge. NHC broadcasted four live broadcasts via Periscope, along with many tweets and Facebook postings, reaching thousands of people.

The unveiling of the Weather Ready Nation Ambassador Wall in appreciation of our community partners’ involvement in weather awareness and safety took place at the Open House. The Open House gave the staffs of WFO Miami and NHC an opportunity to display to the South Florida community our total dedication and hard work in support of our mission, as well as to show our partnerships wit h core partners in emergency management/public safety, media and universities. All the many words of thanks and appreciation received from visitors of the Open House made all the hard work in planning the event more than worth it.

NHC TourNHC Tour


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Kaitlyn Kalua joined OPC in February as a 2017 Knauss Sea Grant Marine Policy Fellow. The fellowship, named after a former NOAA Administrator, John A. Knauss, matches highly qualified graduate students with "hosts" in the legislative and executive branches of government located in the DC area, Picture of Kaitlyn Kalua for a one year fellowship.

Kaitlyn obtained her J.D. from the University of California - Davis School of Law with certificates in Environmental and Public Interest law. Kaitlyn joins NCEP with extensive experience in water resource and coastal management, having worked issues pertaining to drought response, sea level rise adaptation, and groundwater management at the California Governor's Office of Planning and Research, the State Water Resources Control Board in Sacramento, and Stanford University's Center for Ocean Solutions and Martin D. Gould Center for Conflict Resolution.

As a Sea Grant Fellow, Kaitlyn supports OPC Director Tom Cuff in the realignment of the National Ice Center, representation on the National Science and Technology Council’s Subcommittee for the U.S. Group on Earth Observations, and several interagency and cross-NOAA initiatives involving NWS products and impact-based decision support services.


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On Sunday, March 25th, NBC Weatherman Al Roker visited the SPC as part of “Rokerthon 3”, which included daily visits to colleges across the U.S. The week began with live weather segments on the Today show from the University of Oklahoma. During Al’s visit to the SPC, he met with Lead Forecaster Jared Guyer, Mesoscale Meteorologists Greg Dial and Matt Mosier, Outlook Forecaster Joey Picca and Fire Weather Forecaster Ashton Robinson Cook. Al received a weather briefing on the severe weather threat areas across the U.S., and the opportunity allowed him to see the tools used by SPC forecasters in the preparation of outlooks and watches.
Al Roker at Storm Prediction Center

NCEP made another national appearance when SPC Director Russell Schneider was a guest on the weekly video netcast “WeatherBrains”. A number of topics were discussed with the hosts during the hour-long interview, including current and planned SPC services, the importance of interaction with and feedback from the broader weather enterprise, and recent SPC developmental work to provide guidance for future short-term severe weather outlooks.


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The 2017 severe weather season has started off with a bang.
- There were 6 killer tornadoes in Q2, with a total of 24 fatalities.
- 16 fatalities in Georgia, 4 fatalities in Mississippi, 3 fatalities in Illinois, 1 fatality in Missouri.
- 14 fatalities in Manufactured Homes; 6 fatalities in houses; 3 fatalities from being outside; 1 fatality in a vehicle

SPC Outlooks Issued:

  • 81 days with at least thunderstorm potential
  • 54 days with at least a marginal risk for severe thunderstorms
  • 32 days with at least a slight risk for severe thunderstorms
  • 18 days with at least an enhanced risk for severe thunderstorms
  • 6 days with at least a moderate risk for severe thunderstorms
  • 1 day with a high risk for severe thunderstorms
Al Roker at Storm Prediction Center

SPC Watches Issued:

  • 24 in January (2 Severe Thunderstorm; 21 Tornado; 1 PDS Tornado)
  • 19 in February (12 Severe Thunderstorm; 7 Tornado)
  • 62 in March (35 Severe Thunderstorm; 27 Tornado)


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On Tuesday, March 28, SWPC staff supported a meeting of the National Academies of Science, Committee on Solar and Space Physics (CSSP), as part of the National Academies 2017 Space Science Week in Washington DC. The meeting focused on activities necessary to support scientific progress in solar and space physics, and discussed options on how to assist the Federal government in planning programs in these fields by providing advice on the implementation of the National Space Weather Action Plan (NSWAP) and decadal survey recommendations.

Dr. Howard Singer, as a member of the CSSP, participated in person and presented on the latest developments at the Space Weather Prediction Center. Bill Murtagh provided a presentation via WebEx, providing an update on the implementation of the NSWAP. The presentations by SWPC staff were followed by fruitful discussions on how best to foster a collaborative environment and leverage public and private networks of expertise and capabilities to improve the science, and consequently, the ability to manage risks associated with space weather.

Images from space

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In collaboration with NOAA’s Space Weather Prediction Center, NOAA's Central Region Collaboration Team unveiled the Space Weather Toolkit, a single website designed to share educational and informative resources quickly and easily. Space weather events are complex with potential to create significant economic consequences, global impacts to communications, satellite and airline operations, manned space flights, solar flarenavigation and surveying systems as well as the power grid and infrastructure. Space weather events may create a need to quickly locate resources on the Space Weather Prediction Center website as well as space weather information for training, education, and outreach. The Space Weather Toolkit was created to address this need with the goal of sharing knowledge and expertise. The NOAA Central Region Collaboration Team, working closely with the Space Weather Prediction Center, NOAA’s Office of Communications, and other key partners, have created several resources as a part of this toolkit.

These include: Science-on-a-Sphere visualizations; handouts on the Space Weather Prediction Center; four YouTube videos: An Introduction to Space Weather and the Space Weather Prediction Center; Space Weather Impacts: Power; Space Weather Impacts: Communications; Space Weather Impacts: GPS; and a comprehensive collection of education and outreach resources. Other valuable tools and information sources are made easily available through the Space Weather Toolkit, including Space Weather Prediction Center Information and Tools; Space Weather Training Resources; and NWS Seasonal Safety Campaigns. NOAA’s Space Weather Toolkit is now available for your use at Space Weather Toolkit.


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The Hydrometeorology Testbed (HMT) conducted the 7th annual Winter Weather Experiment (WWE) from January 17-February 17, 2017 at the NCWCP building in College Park, MD. This experiment brought together WFO forecasters, academic researchers, and numerical weather prediction modelers to explore new model data sets, forecast tools, and forecasting techniques with the goal of improving winter weather prediction both at WPC and in the field. Each day the participants forecasted snow and ice over the CONUS, including snowfall rates over a chosen limited domain. Participants issued Winter Storm Watches and Winter Weather Alerts after the forecasts were complete. A daily forecast briefing was provided for interested NWS SOOs and WFOs by WWE participants. These briefings attempted to simulate a collaboration concept with center-issued watches and provided an opportunity for WFO forecasters to ask questions and offer feedback. Participants also subjectively evaluated the experimental forecasts and guidance.

The 2017 WWE continued work that began in 2016 with the exploration of 1-hour probabilistic snowfall rate guidance to identify potential mesoscale snowfall banding. To better ascertain the predictability of these mesoscale snowfall bands, experimental versions of the High-Resolution Rapid Refresh (HRRR) and HRRR Time-Lagged Ensemble (HRRR-TLE) provided by the Earth System Research Laboratory (ESRL), and the National Center for Atmospheric Research (NCAR) Storm-Scale Ensemble were evaluated among other datasets.

The 2017 experiment also debuted the exploration of standard criteria-based Winter Storm Watches and impacts-based Winter Weather Alerts. The WPC Watch Collaborator, which uses the WPC PWPF and local winter storm watch criteria, was tested as a tool for collaboration among local offices when determining boundaries and issuance times of winter storm watches. Other tools to address impacts included experimental joint probability tools (combining forecasts of multiple weather elements) and the Nash/Cobb Winter Storm Severity Index (WSSI) prototype.

The 2017 Winter Weather Experiment was a great success. Several tested experimental datasets will be converted to operations over the coming year within WPC. The complete final report will be available soon at: http://www.wpc.ncep.noaa.gov/hmt/experimentsummaries.shtml

Interactions and activities of the 2017 HMT-Winter Weather Experiment
Interactions and activities of the 2017 HMT-Winter Weather Experiment

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Page last modified: Tuesday, 16-May-2017 20:19:58 UTC