FSL in Review 2001 - 2002

Cover/Title Page

Organizational Chart

Office of the Director

Office of Administration
and Research

Information and
Technology Services

Forecast Research

Demonstration Division

Systems Development

Aviation Division

Modernization Division

International Division


Acronyms and Terms

Figures Listing

Contact the Editor
Nita Fullerton

Web Design:
Will von Dauster
John Osborn

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FIR 2001 - 2002 A&R MastHead
F. James "Jim" Holitza, Director

Web Homepage: http://www.fsl.noaa.gov

Sandra J. Aschert, Administrative Officer, 303-497-6803
Sandra J. Chandler, Budget Analyst, 303-497-6282
Sybil A. Ennis, Administrative Technician, 303-497-4134
Frederic N. Gould, Computer Specialist, 303-497-6861
Penny L. Granville, Budget Analyst, 303-497-6108
Phyllis L. Gunn, Program Analyst, 303-497-6625
Tracy L. Hoy, Inventory Control Technician, 303-497-6912
Rhonda K. Lange, Visitor Information Specialist, 303-497-6045
Bernard A. Metz, Computer Specialist, 303-497-6746

(The above roster, current when document is published, includes government, cooperative agreement, and commercial affiliate staff.)

Address: NOAA Forecast Systems Laboratory – Mail Code: FSA
David Skaggs Research Center
325 Broadway
Boulder, Colorado 80305-3328

Figure 2 - Rhonda, Beverly, and Student

Figure 2. NOAA/FSL 2002 Summer Intern Program: Beverly Meier (right) Broomfield Heights Middle School, Brendan Beikmann (center) Legacy High School student, and Rhonda Lange (left) FSL Visitor and Information Specialist.


FSL was established in October 1988, and is one of 12 research laboratories under the Office of Oceanic and Atmospheric Research (OAR) of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), within the Department of Commerce. The mission of FSL is to transfer new research findings in atmospheric, oceanic, and hydrologic sciences to the operational elements of NOAA and other domestic and foreign organizations. It conducts programs (involving the following activities ) to integrate, evaluate, and apply developments to information and forecast systems.

  • Exploratory System Development – Anticipate requirements for NOAA's operational services and develop concepts in cooperation with operations specialists to meet these requirements. Test the utility of these concepts in environmental information and prediction systems for operations and data management.
  • Research Applications – Conduct applied research toward improved forecasting capabilities. Capitalize on technological advances and improved understanding of the atmosphere-land-ocean environment to develop improved techniques for geophysical observations, more effective data assimilaton, and more accurate prediction models.
  • System Validation – Use real-time and archived data to test and evaluate hardware and software systems and their diagnostic and predictive output.
  • Technology Transfer – Work directly with users in expediting the transfer of new techniques and systems to operational use. Pursue goals toward effective dissemination of environmental information to foster highly informed decision-making.


The Office of the Director manages FSL, in addition to special research programs conducted within the laboratory.

The Office of Administration and Research, under the Office of the Director, provides management support, administrative support led by an Administrative Officer, IT support, contract administration, and visitor and information services (Figure 2).

The Information and Technology Services (ITS) is also under the Office of the Director. The FSL Chief Information Officer manages the ITS, responsible for the computers, communications and data networks, and associated peripherals that FSL staff use to accomplish their research and systems development mission. The FSL Central Facility comprises dozens of computers ranging from workstations and servers to a High Performance Technologies, Inc. (HPTi) supercomputer. The facility contains a wide variety of meteorological data-ingest interfaces, storage devices, local- and wide-area networks, communications links to external networks, and display devices. Over 700 Internet Protocol-capable hosts and network devices include Unix hosts, PCs and Macintoshes, and network routers, hubs, and switches. These hardware and associated software enable FSL staff to design, develop, test, evaluate, and transfer to operations advanced weather information systems and new forecasting techniques. Data and products are also provided for research activities at other NOAA Research Laboratories, the National Center for Atmospheric Research (NCAR), and university laboratories.

Six divisions carry out the research and development activities, as follows.

    The Forecast Research Division (FRD) is home to most of the research in FSL on short-range forecasting and small-scale weather phenomena. High-resolution numerical models are developed by scientists in FRD to support the NWS and the aviation community with accurate short-range forecasts based on the latest observations. The Rapid Update Cycle (RUC), an operational system within the National Weather Service (NWS), provides hourly updated national-scale numerical analyses and forecasts. The portable Local Analysis and Prediction System (LAPS) can integrate data from virtually every meteorological observation system into a very high-resolution gridded framework centered on any operational forecast office's domain of responsibility. The quasi-nonhydrostatic multiscale model has been developed for use on any scale of motion. Scientists in FRD are also participating in the development of the Weather Research and Forecast (WRF) model, a next-generation mesoscale forecast model and assimilation system that will advance both the understanding and prediction of important mesoscale weather. The Global Air-ocean IN-situ System (GAINS) program is developing a global sounding system, particularly over data-sparse regions, such as the oceans. Dynamical studies of mesoscale processes are conducted to improve understanding of the atmosphere. FRD is participating in the International H2O Project (IHOP-2002), which is designed to improve understanding of the mesoscale variability of water vapor and apply this knowledge to improving the prediction of warm-season precipitation events. Research-quality datasets from such projects are used to improve mesoscale analysis, data assimilation methods, and numerical weather prediction systems.

    The Demonstration Division evaluates promising atmospheric observing technologies developed by NOAA and other federal agencies and organizations and determines their value in the operational domain. Activities range from the demonstration of scientific and engineering innovations to the management of new systems and technologies. Current activities include the operation, maintenance, and improvement of the NOAA Profiler Network (including three sites in Alaska), which provides data not available elsewhere, and reliable hourly observations of winds from the surface to the lower stratosphere. The Radio Acoustic Sounding System (RASS) technique has been demonstrated and proved beneficial for remote sensing of temperatures at profiler sites. A more recent project, the GPS-Met Demonstration Network, has shown that the addition of ground-based GPS water vapor observations to a numerical weather prediction model improves forecast accuracy, especially under conditions of active weather. Wind and temperature data from Boundary Layer Profilers operated by other organizations are also collected and distributed for research and operational use.

    The Systems Development Division works closely with other FSL groups in providing technical expertise on functional specifications for new workstation and interactive display systems. Object-oriented technology is utilized to design and develop systems, such as the Local Data Acquisition and Dissemination (LDAD) system which provides NWS forecasters access to detailed local mesoscale observations that enhance federal observing systems. State and local emergency preparedness agencies benefit from LDAD's gridded weather data, severe weather warnings and advisories, point observations, and radar precipitation data. Other systems include the Quality Control and Monitoring System (QCMS) that provides users and suppliers of hydrometeorological observations with readily available quality control statistics. Two surface assimilation systems, the MAPS Surface Analysis System (MSAS) and the Rapid Update Cycle Surface Assimilation System (RSAS), provide direct measurements of surface conditions and give crucial indicators of potential for severe weather. In addition, the Meteorological Assimilation Data Ingest System (MADIS) provides quality-controlled observations (such as radiosonde, automated aircraft, windprofiler, and surface datasets) and data access software to university and government data assimilation researchers.

    The Aviation Division promotes safer skies through improved aviation weather products. In collaboration with the NWS, Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), Department of Defense (DOD), and Department of Transportation (DOT) it provides improved weather forecasting, product visualization, and verification capabilities to civilian and military forecasters, pilots, air traffic controllers, and airline dispatchers. Through research and development of high-performance computing, it also ensures continued improvement of high-resolution numerical weather analysis and prediction systems.

    The Modernization Division specifies requirements for advanced meteorological workstations, product and technique development, and new forecast preparation concepts and techniques. It manages the development and fielding of advanced prototype meteorological systems into operational National Weather Service (NWS) forecast offices, and performs objective evaluations of these operational systems. The division plays a major role in development and operational use of AWIPS at over 100 NWS forecast offices. It provides management and direction for research in the latest scientific and technical advances, with special emphasis on their potential application to operational meteorology.

    The International Division oversees internal development of systems intended primarily for global or international application. It is involved in several international cooperative technology transfer agreements, such as implementation of a totally updated forecast center at the Central Weather Bureau (CWB) of Taiwan and development of a Forecaster's Analysis System for the Korea Meteorological Administration. The division also supports the successful GLOBE (Global Learning and Observations to Benefit the Environment) program, an international environmental educational and research program that links the efforts of students, teachers, and scientists. More than 10,000 students worldwide monitor various environmental parameters and regularly post their findings on the Internet. GLOBE provides a unique global database of atmospheric, soil, biologic, and hydrologic measurements, which are used by researchers and students for a multitude of experiments. The FX-Net National, a real-time meteorological PC workstation that makes AWIPS products available over the Internet, has been implemented. Development of the FSL WorldWide Workstation (W4) is underway in support of improved information for synoptic and mesoscale weather forecasts and early warnings of severe weather events to international customers.


FSL is staffed by a combination of Civil Service employees, Joint Institute staff, Commercial Affiliates, and Visiting Scientists/Guest Workers. The Joint Institutes are the Cooperative Institute for Research in the Atmosphere (CIRA), Fort Collins, Colorado, and the Cooperative Institute for Research in Environmental Sciences (CIRES), Boulder, Colorado. FSL is also supported by a Commercial Service Affiliate: the Systems Research Group, Inc., Colorado Springs, Colorado. As of October 2001, FSL staff totaled 213 in the following categories: 87 Civil Service (including 1 NWS employee), 67 Joint Institutes (51 from CIRA and 16 from CIRES), 42 Commercial Affiliates, and 17 Visiting Scientists/Guest Workers (Figure 3).

Figure 3 - Employment Categories

Figure 3. Employment categories during 2001 – Total Employees: 213.


Funding for FSL is received from a variety of sources. In Fiscal Year 2001, FSL received $26.6M from the following sources: $8.6M – NOAA/OAR base funds, $10.9M – other NOAA funds, $5.9M – U.S. Government outside NOAA, and $1.2M – Non-Federal (Figure 4). The main components of "other NOAA funds" included $4.2M – NWS, $5.1M toward the purchase of a High-Performance Computer System and for research utilizing this system, and $1.6M for support of other NOAA projects. Other U.S. Government sources of funding included the FAA from the DOT, , the Air Force from the DOD, the Department of Energy (DOE), and the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA). Funding was also received from the Taiwan CWB, KMA, Mitretek, and the Salt Lake City Organizing Committee for the Olympic Winter Games.

Figure 4 - Funding Sources

Figure 4. FSL Funding Sources during Fiscal Year 2001 – Total: $26.6M.


An important aspect of the Visitor and Information Services program is arranging tours or visits and scheduling appropriate FSL staff to match special interests of the visitors. These services are provided for visitors from schools, the general public, government, private sector, and foreign countries. During 2001, this office accommodated at least 1,882 visitors (Figure 5), not including visits arranged directly with FSL staff outside this office. Because of heightened security later in the year, the number of visitors, particularly those from schools, was down. The largest number of visitors came from academia, educators, and students, numbering 892. Other visitors included 408 from the general public, 423 from government, 67 from the private sector, and 92 from foreign countries, including Hungary, the People's Republic of China, India, Taiwan, Australia, Korea, Japan, Thailand, Algeria, New Zealand, Hong Kong, Republic of Armenia, and Finland. (Anyone interested in visiting FSL may contact Rhonda Lange at 303-497-6045, or by e-mail at Rhonda.K.Lange@noaa.gov.)

Figure 5 - Visitor Categories

Figure 5. Categories of the 1,882 recorded visitors during 2001.

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