December 1996 FSL Forum
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To accomplish their role in the Bosnia peacekeeping effort, forecasters at the Global Weather Center must use increasingly complex, higher resolution datasets to produce a simpler, more accurate forecast. Weather conditions such as low clouds, icing, turbulence, and heavy rain, snow, or fog can directly affect troop logistics. In addition, real-time visualizations of these data on finely tuned interactive computer displays can provide weather information that is easier to interpret by military planners who may not have a meteorology background. Indeed, how these data are interpreted can determine whether military operations run smoothly or become vulnerable to weather-related disruptions.
Air Force management asked FSL to develop and install a Proof of Concept system at the Global Weather Center to demonstrate the ability to produce high resolution two- and three-dimensional weather forecast products for Bosnia. This risk-reducing system would be used to further evaluate requirements and performance parameters specified for the Air Force Global Theater Weather Analysis and Prediction System.
In close collaboration with the Air Force Global Weather Central and Argonne National Laboratories, FSL set out to complete its mission. The Local Analysis and Prediction System (LAPS) was configured to cover the Bosnian theater (Figure 1). LAPS generates high-resolution analysis fields for the MM90 model, a version of the NCAR-Pennsylvania State MM5 model which was parallelized at the Argonne National Laboratories. The LAPS and MM90 output grids are displayed in two and three dimensions on FSL's WFO-Advanced workstation, also installed at the Global Weather Center. Installation of the LAPS system (merging the Global Weather Center's data formatting and ingest), integration of the MM90 model, and installation of the WFO-Advanced workstation were all completed in a record-breaking period of three months.
Figure 1. The LAPS-MM90 domain over Bosnia.
LAPS was installed at the Global Weather Center on an IBM RISC 6000 workstation, which is part of a parallel processing system consisting of a 14 node, IBM SP2 and the IBM workstation. The LAPS initial fields include data ingested from the Global Weather Center's databases: the Navy's global model, Navy Operational Global Atmospheric Prediction System (NOGAPS), and upper-air and surface observations taken over the Bosnian domain. Staff at Global Weather Central developed software to automatically extract these initial data from their respective databases and send them to the IBM workstation. The Bosnia domain covers a 1000 km x 1000 km area centered on Dubrovnik. The LAPS analysis has 101 x 101 horizontal points and 21 vertical levels, ranging from 1100 hPa to 100 hPa, at 50 hPa increments. LAPS was run on the RISC 6000 processor, and the LAPS output grids were sent to the MM90 model running on the IBM SP2.
FSL also developed, and provided to Argonne, the post- processing software needed to go from the MM90 output files to the WFO-Advanced workstation. Some of these variables are directly predicted by MM5/MM90, and some are diagnostic. The three-dimensional fields currently implemented by FSL on the WFO-Advanced, the D3D workstation, (using the LAPS 50-mb increment isobaric surfaces) include height, temperature, winds, relative humidity, vertical motion, specific humidity, cloud water, and cloud ice. The two-dimensional surface fields for the D2D workstation include winds, temperature, pressure, dewpoint, relative humidity, potential temperature, and equivalent potential temperature. Other two-dimensional fields include cloud base, cloud top, mean-sea-level pressure, integrated liquid water, total precipitable water, hourly precipitation, total accumulated precipitation, positive and negative buoyant energies, cloud cover, cloud ceiling, maximum echo top in a column, visibility, heat index, 1500 m pressure, and lifted index.
Figure 2. D3D visualization over Bosnia showing cloud liquid water.
The WFO-Advanced D2D application, a prototype of an AWIPS-like forecaster workstation, is in operational use at the Denver National Weather Service Forecast Office. The workstation software is designed to provide a flexible platform for a geographically independent set of forecaster capabilities. With simple changes to ASCII tables, menus are customized to the data and the geographical area of interest, a feature referred to as "localization." For the Bosnia localization, the menus were confined to the model data. Map overlays for the European theater were created for scales ranging from the Northern Hemisphere to the LAPS-MM90 domain. WFO-Advanced was developed using an object-oriented design approach, recognizing the concept of easy localization. Eventually, the system will include customization tools so that users can define scales onsite, rather than through changes to the ASCII tables.
A Research Associate with FSL's Modernization Division, Patrice Kucera, provided training and a D2D User's Guide for forecasters at the Global Weather Center at Offut Air Force Base, near Omaha, Nebraska. She demonstrated the WFO-Advanced D2D operations and trained about 20 forecasters and programmers involved in numerical modeling. Since the WFO-Advanced user interface is designed to be very intuitive, Air Force staff could quickly navigate around the software. The improvements, upon seeing the D2D displays, were immediately obvious. The gridded data were displayed as color images showing an increase in explicit weather features in the Bosnia domain (Figure 2). Easier-to-understand forecast information is especially beneficial to nonforecasters and forecasters who may have received compressed meteorological training for specific combat missions. More accurate and descriptive weather data can increase the strategic planners' accuracy as well.
FSL staff have been developing and experimenting with three-dimensional visualization techniques for years. Paula McCaslin, a Computer Analyst in the Forecast Research Division, and Philip McDonald, a Research Associate in the Systems Development Division, initially used Version 5 of the Application Visualization System (AVS5) to develop D3D tools to investigate data with volume rendering, dynamic probes, flexible visual perspectives, animation over time, through space, and over specified ranges of high resolution data and animated wind tracers. These colorful visualizations have appeared on the covers of many American Meteorological Society journal and conference preprint publications, FSL publications, and in newspapers and other journals.
The three-dimensional visualizations used for the Air Force Proof of Concept system were developed using the latest version of the AVS/Express software, including an experimental user interface for the D3D application on the WFO-Advanced. This application allows Air Force forecasters to access and display the LAPS and MM90 analysis and forecast grids in three dimensions in the Bosnia theater forecast zones. Paula McCaslin provided training and demonstrations of this new capability for forecasters at the Global Weather Center. Her training sessions also included use of the D3D User's Guide. The feedback from these users will be closely considered for refining the user interface and data display techniques for D3D.
Editor's Note: A complete paper, including references, entitled "Gridded Data Visualization at the Air Force's Global Weather Center," by Sher Wagoner, Daniel Birkenheuer, Jennifer Cram, Paula McCaslin, Philip McDonald, Darien Davis, and Major Randy Lefevre and Captain Scott Hausman, will be presented by Sher Wagoner at the upcoming American Meteorological Society Meeting in Long Beach.
(Sher M. Wagoner is a Senior Systems Analyst in FSL's Aviation Division, headed by Michael Kraus. More information on related activities are available on URL http://www-ad.fsl.noaa.gov/ .)
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