FSL in Review 2002 - 2003

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 2002 - 2003 AD MastHead
Dr. Michael J. Kraus, Chief
(Supervisory Meteorologist)

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

Cherie L. Adams, Secretary Office Automation, 303-497-6122
Young S. Chun, Research Associate, 303-497-6426
Chris Fischer, Research Associate, 303-497-7451
Jim Frimel, Research Associate, 303-497-7429
Lisa Gifford, Programmer, 303-497-4274
Mark W. Govett, Computer Specialist, 303-497-6278
Joan E. Hart, Research Associate, 303-497-6882
Judy K. Henderson, Computer Scientist, 303-497-6940
Mike Kay, Associate Scientist II, 303-497-4323
Matt Kelsch, Professional Research Assistant, 303-497-6830
Andrew Loughe, Research Associate, 303-497-6211
Jennifer L. Mahoney, Meteorologist -
Chief, Forecast Verification Branch, 303-497-6514
Chris Masters, Consultant, 479-243-9203
Jacques Middlecoff, Research Associate, 303-497-6034
Douglas Ohlhorst, Systems Administrator, 303-497-6922
Gregory Pratt, Computer Specialist -
Chief, Aviation Systems: Development and Deployment Branch, 303-497-7237
Dennis M. Rodgers, Meteorologist, 303-497-6933
Dan Schaffer, Computer Scientist, 303-497-7252
Dr. Lynn A. Sherretz, Meteorologist -
Chief, Aviation Requirements and Applications Branch, 303-497-5580
Beth Sigren, Research Associate, 303-497-7044
Dr. Christopher E. Steffen, Research Associate, 303-497-6247
Sher M. Wagoner, Senior Systems Analyst, 303-497-7254

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

Address: NOAA Forecast Systems Laboratory – Mail Code: FS5
David Skaggs Research Center
325 Broadway
Boulder, Colorado 80305-3328


The Aviation Division collaborates with the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), the National Weather Service (NWS), and the Departments of Defense and Transportation. The product of these collaborations is an improved weather forecasting and visualization capability for use by military and civilian forecasters, air traffic controllers, air traffic managers, airline dispatchers, and general aviation pilots. More opportunities to develop better weather products now exist because of new observing systems, recent advances in understanding the atmosphere, and higher performance computing capabilities.

The division comprises four branches:

    Aviation Requirements and Applications Branch – Defines requirements for generating and disseminating aviation weather products; develops the capability to assess the quality of products generated automatically and by aviation weather forecasters, and the "guidance" forecasters use to generate those products.

    Aviation Systems: Development and Deployment Branch – Manages enhancement, testing, fielding, and supporting of advanced meteorological workstations for the NWS Aviation Weather Center (AWC); develops Aviation Digital Data Service (ADDS) Web products for use by the aviation community.

    Advanced Computing Branch – Assures the continuing improvement of high-resolution numerical weather analysis and prediction systems through research and development in high-performance computing.

    Forecast Verification Branch – Develops verification techniques, mainly focusing on aviation weather forecasts, and tools that allow forecasters, researchers, developers, and program leaders to generate and display statistical information (Figure 65) in near real time using the Real-Time Verification System (RTVS).

Figure 65 - RTVS Time Series

Figure 65. RTVS time series of the turbulence forecast verification using the
Aviation Weather Center's AIRMETs and PIREPs of observed turbulence. The
plotted values include the probability of detection of turbulence (PODy) in red,
the probability of detection of no turbulence (PODn) in blue, and the percent
volume of the total airspace impacted by the forecast volume (Pct Volume) in
green. The X-axis shows time (weekly) increments, the left side Y-axis is the
POD values, and the right side Y-axis is the Pct Volume values.

In addition to its own activities, the Aviation Division provides funds for other FSL divisions to assist in achieving these goals.

Aviation Requirements and Applications Branch
Lynn A. Sherretz, Chief


The Aviation Requirements and Applications Branch develops requirements for advanced products and software tools for the aviation community. The software includes flight planning tools for pilots, air traffic controllers and managers, and airline dispatchers, as well as product generation and grid interaction tools for aviation weather forecasters.

The branch serves as the focal point for coordinating activities with the FAA Aviation Weather Research Program (AWRP) and the U.S. Air Force Weather Agency (AFWA), organizations which fund the development efforts. Two other functions involve leading the AWRP Product Development Team for Aviation Forecasts and Quality Assessment (AF&QA), and facilitating projects that provide the Air Force with globally relocatable, high-resolution atmospheric analyses (using the Air Force's global datasets).

Flight Planning Tools

Development of the Aviation Digital Data Service (ADDS) continues, in collaboration with the National Center for Atmospheric Research (NCAR) and the NWS Aviation Weather Center (AWC). Aviation decision-makers can use this Internet-based system to access text, graphics, grids and images of up-to-the-minute observations, and forecasts of high-resolution aviation impact variables (AIVs) tailored to specific flight routes. The ADDS Website (Figure 66) is available at http://adds.aviationweather.gov.

Figure 66 - ADDS Website

Figure 66. Screen showing a Java tool available at the
ADDS Website, http://adds.aviationweather.noaa.gov/.

Product Generation Tools

The branch is serving as the focal point for developing and evaluating the utility of advanced weather display products for FAA Traffic Management Units (TMUs), which are tasked with managing air traffic in enroute and terminal environments. This effort includes developing and evaluating the utility of software that enables NWS Center Weather Service Unit (CWSU) forecasters to collaborate in real-time to generate products for TMUs.

Volcanic Ash Coordination Tool

Responding to the need for better coordination among the operational organizations that make forecasts for volcanic ash, the branch is seeking support to develop a Volcanic Ash Coordination Tool (VACT) that will benefit from FSL's FXC (FX-Collaborate) workstation. (To learn more about how volcanic ash threatens aviation and the organizations that must respond, refer to Simpson et. al., Wea. Forecasting, August 2002.)

Program Development and Technology Transfer Project

The goal of the Program Development and Technology Transfer project is to expand FSL's opportunities to develop new collaborative activities with domestic and foreign research and operational groups within government, educational institutions, and the private sector. The project leaders will build on FSL's expertise in numerical weather prediction, data assimilation, high-performance computing, and observing systems. Advances in weather warning support, dissemination, and graphical forecast editing are among the technologies planned for infusion into operational weather services during the coming years.


Flight Planning Tools

During 2002, along with NCAR, the branch focused on preparing to implement ADDS operationally at the NWS Aviation Weather Center with the primary goal of ensuring that the software runs very reliably. Tasks included enabling all ADDS products to be generated at AWC instead of at development laboratories, and to run on the operating system that AWC supports. NCAR and FSL now have identical development and testing environments, thereby ensuring that all ADDS Java tools have a standard code base and identical "look and feel." This will make it easier for AWC to maintain the Java tools when ADDS becomes operational.

The branch participated in a joint FAA/NWS working group to identify weather information requirements for FAA Traffic Management Units. Assistance was provided the FAA in preparing a detailed research plan for rapid prototyping of weather products for TMUs and methods for collaboratively generating those products. In coordination with the NWS Southern Region, a Test and Evaluation facility was set up at the Fort Worth, Texas, Air Route Traffic Control Center (ARTCC), which will initially focus on convective forecasts for FAA traffic managers.

Key tasks included 1) setting up FXC product generation, server systems, and communication links; 2) implementing a Website that will enable traffic managers to view prototype products; and 3) developing a prototype of graphical convective forecasts for FAA traffic managers that combines into a single graphic key with attributes of Convective SIGMETs (generated each hour by forecasters at NWS/AWC) and the National Convective Weather Forecast (an automated product based on NEXRAD observations and lightning observations that is generated every five minutes). Besides generating and disseminating products, FXC enables forecasters at various locations and on various computer platforms to view concurrently and in real time basic AWIPS weather displays, invoke basic workstation functions (such as animating, zooming, and overlaying), and collaboratively generate (in real time) free-hand and icon-based graphical products. This system can be readily adapted to ingest local data and display output generated by advanced algorithms and forecast models. It is also ideal for rapid prototyping because it resides outside of the AWIPS firewall, thus providing the flexibility to make rapid enhancements.

Volcanic Ash Coordination Tool

The initial concepts for the Volcanic Ash Coordination tool were developed and presented to the FAA and NWS, and funding opportunities are being pursued.

Program Development and Technology Transfer Project

In keeping with FSL's mission to transfer new technology and research findings to other NOAA offices and other users of environmental information, many new program development activities are underway. The cooperative agreement between FSL and the Colorado State University's Cooperative Institute for Research in the Atmosphere (CIRA) is utilized to support collaborative research between FSL, CIRA, and other agencies such as NASA and NCAR. This agreement provides a defined cooperative relationship with scientists at CIRA and FSL who work to solve operational weather problems. It provides a unique opportunity for applied researchers from the public sector to transfer proven scientific advances and technologies to operational agencies to benefit their respective weather observing and forecasting systems.

A major task last year was management and execution of the 2002 FSL Technology Day, which showcased real-time demonstrations of FSL research projects. All activities required extensive planning and coordination to inaugurate the exhibition of research results that were considered mature enough to demonstrate to the government and public sector. The participants strongly encouraged further collaboration with FSL in continued research and development of these results. New collaborations were identified as a result of the 2002 FSL Technology Day, held at the Skaggs Research Center, involving the Real-Time Verification System (RTVS), Graphical Forecast Editor (GFESuite), and the FX-Collaborate (FXC) and FX-Net workstation projects. Ongoing technology transfer activities include continued collaboration with the Air Force Launch Ranges regarding the RSA program and the Air Force Weather Agency regarding the development of data assimilation for the Weather Research and Forecasting (WRF) model.

Another important collaboration involved outreach with the FSL Director's Office to develop materials and provide outreach for the Global Universal Profiling System (GUPS) initiative. Contacts were developed with international, private sector, university, and other government agencies, such as the Department of Defense, to participate in scientific collaboration, concept feedback, and planning activities. A proof of concept plan and a detailed briefing were prepared for use as outreach tools when contacting potential supporters and collaborators. Scientific and program planning meetings were held with researchers from other NOAA Office of Atmospheric Research laboratories, such as the Climate Monitoring and Diagnostics Laboratory, Aeronomy Laboratory, and the Environmental Technology Laboratory. New research collaborations were initiated with support from the GPS-Met Observing Systems Branch in the Demonstration Division. Activities included outreach and education efforts and development of research partnerships, as follows:

  • Coordinated a program funded through the Federal Highways Administration for a partnership with the National Geodetic Survey and the Space Environment Center to research the use of meteorological and ionospheric models to improve GPS positioning accuracy.
  • Seminar and poster presentations at local AMS Chapter meetings, the annual AMS meeting, regional meetings of NWS Science Operations Officers, the National Transportation Board annual meeting, the World Space Congress, and CORETech. Three papers were co-authored for these activities.
  • Identification of user requirements for the Federal Highways, Air Force, and Army program development efforts.


Flight Planning Tools

The primary focus is to continue collaboration with NCAR and AWC to make ADDS fully operational at AWC by July 2003. Following operational implementation, AWC (with support from FSL and NCAR) will undertake the key task of enabling ADDS to conform to criteria for reliability, accessibility, security, and archiving set forth by the FAA to qualify as an approved provider of weather information over the Internet. The criterion for archiving requires reproducing the specific data requested by each user for 15 days following the request. To meet this recommendation, all products will be archived and each product request and ADDS response will be recorded. It will not be feasible for ADDS (and other Internet-based aviation weather systems) to ascertain if users receive or look at the products.

Operational and software documentation will be prepared to familiarize the Aviation Weather Center with ADDS software and hardware. Plans are to implement the same development environment at AWC that NCAR and FSL use, thereby ensuring that any software "fixes" made by AWC have a path to future versions.

Another expected task is to develop an "application" version of the ADDS Flight Path Tool. Benefits of the new version, which is based on Java Developer's Kit 1.4, include a common "look and feel" across platforms, faster printing and saving preferred configurations, and an "environment" to build custom graphics for specific flight routes.

Product Generation Tools

A major task will be to assess the utility of the prototype convective forecast, Convective SIGMET and NCWF combination, that was developed in 2002. Software will be developed to display prototype inflight icing products. The initial focus will be on the automated Current Icing Potential (CIP) and Forecast Icing Potential (FIP) in context with conventional AIRMETs and SIGMETs for icing.

Volcanic Ash Coordination Tool

Development of the VACT will begin in 2003, with initial implementation at the Alaska Aviation Weather Unit (AAWU) and the Anchorage Center Weather Service Unit (CWSU). The AAWU generates SIGMETs for volcanic ash and the CWSU generates Center Weather Advisories (CWAs) for volcanic ash. Enabling both entities to view identical data and collaborate in real time will help ensure that warnings and forecasts are consistent.

Program Development and Technology Transfer Project

The Program Development and Technology Transfer Project will continue to expand efforts to create new collaborations with domestic and international research and operational groups in the private sector, government, and academia. Operational user requirements will be developed and documented for the GPS-Met project to be used as an outreach tool to create new research and technology transfer opportunities with the DOD, Federal Highways Administration, and the NPOESS program. Activities to expand collaboration with FSL and CIRA will focus on GPS- Met, data assimilation, and satellite calibration/validation. Other outreach plans in support of program development include finding additional venues for systems demonstrations and technical presentations and developing a Website that highlights collaborative project opportunities at FSL. Finally, activities are ongoing related to planning and coordinating the 2003 FSL Technology Day.

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Aviation Systems: Development and Deployment Branch
Greg Pratt, Chief


The Aviation Systems: Development and Deployment Branch works with other groups within FSL and outside agencies in an effort to rapidly prototype new or enhance existing meteorological information systems for use by the aviation community. Goals are to improve safety and use of the National Air Space (NAS) by improving the tools used by aviation forecasters, creating temporally and spatially seamless aviation weather forecasts through forecaster collaboration, and delivering the best aviation weather products available to air route traffic controllers, dispatchers, and pilots in easily understood formats. Current activities involve four projects: Aviation Digital Data Service (ADDS), the Enhanced Traffic Management System (ETMS), Traffic Management Unit (TMU), and Data Link Dissemination (DLD).

Aviation Digital Data Service Project

ADDS is a Web-based real-time aviation weather dissemination system (http://adds.aviationweather.noaa.gov) with a primary objective to facilitate a safer and more efficient NAS. To accomplish this goal, the ADDS provides aviation decision-makers (pilots and dispatchers) with easy, inexpensive, real-time access to the latest operational aviation weather observations and forecasts, along with experimental products based on research funded by the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) Aviation Weather Research Program (AWRP). Users can view and retrieve aviation weather in a variety of formats that they can tailor to fit their individual needs. The user can view and print text products and pregenerated graphics products, or interactively query the ADDS site by running Java applets.

A secondary goal of the ADDS is to rapidly release new and improved aviation weather products to the aviation community. The ADDS meets this goal by involving the user at an early stage in the development cycle. User feedback from the ADDS Advanced User Group, the ADDS Forum, and e-mail determines design decisions and product usability. This means that end-users are involved in the requirements phase and determine whether a product is useful by accessing it during the experimental portion of the development cycle. The end-user determines the needs and when they have been met.

The branch continues to work jointly with the National Center for Atmospheric Research (NCAR) and the Aviation Weather Center (AWC) to add functionality and support the ADDS Website. The ADDS is funded through the FAA Aviation Weather Research Program (AWRP).

Enhanced Traffic Management System Project

The ETMS is a real-time aircraft tracking system being used operationally by all FAA air traffic control personnel to direct aircraft flow in the United States NAS. Goals of the ETMS are to maintain safe airways, help minimize delays, and conserve energy. Weather plays a key role in all three of these areas. The branch has developed and operationally deployed the Aviation Weather Network, designed to add real-time weather information to the ETMS for display on the Traffic Situation Display and provide automation support for strategic planning of the National Airspace System.

Work continues with the Volpe National Transportation Systems Center (the Volpe Center) in integrating new aviation-tailored weather products on the Aircraft Situation Display and upgrading the Aviation Weather Network to handle the latest improvements to the Rapid Update Cycle (RUC) gridded datasets. The RUC grids are used to create displays for the Traffic Situation Display and provide automation support for strategic planning of the National Airspace System.

Traffic Management Unit Project

The TMU project is currently in the initial phase of a four-phase project designed to address unmet or newly identified weather information needs of the TMU in the following air traffic weather-related hazard areas:
  • Phase 1 – Convection
  • Phase 2 – Icing
  • Phase 3 – Turbulence
  • Phase 4 – Ceiling and Visibility

Each phase will address the tactical (0 – 1 hour) and the strategic (2 – 6 hour) application of the above products to help the TMU decision-maker in directing air traffic into and out of the ARTCC airspace. All phases will be subjected to the iterative process of defining, developing, demonstrating, and evaluating the weather related hazard graphic and its presentation to Traffic Manager users.

The project is sponsored by FAA's Air Traffic System Requirements (ARS-100), AWRP (AUA-430), and Southwest Regional Headquarters, as well as the National Weather Service Southern Region Headquarters. The purpose of the project is to address the requirements that were found in the in-depth study performed by FAA ARS-100 on "Decision-Based Weather Needs for the Air Route Traffic Control Center (ARTCC) Traffic Management Unit." In response to these needs, FSL is working closely with the Dallas/Fort Worth (ZFW) Traffic Management Unit (TMU) and the Center Weather Service Unit (CWSU) on Phase 1, the Tactical Convective Hazard Product (TCHP) graphic.

The goal of the TCHP is to consolidate all tactical thunderstorm information into a single graphical product or limited suite of products for presentation to TMU decision-makers in an easily understood format. The TMU project will capitalize on development of advanced products from the AWRP and optimize the use of conventional advisories. Feedback from the ZFW Traffic Management Unit and Center Weather Service Unit participants will help refine the content and presentation. The Demonstration and Evaluation (D&E) will expedite fielding of advanced products by obtaining operational input early in the process. When there is agreement between the participants that a satisfactory product has been created, specific recommendations will be made for national implementation on FAA operational systems such as the Volpe National Transportation Systems Center Enhanced Traffic Management System (ETMS).

Data Link Dissemination

The Flight Information Services Data link (FISDL) is a partnership between the government and private industry to get affordable, near real-time weather data to the cockpit of general aviators. In an agreement signed by private vendors and the FAA, it was agreed that basic weather products would be broadcast without cost to the users. The FAA and industry have defined the following seven weather products as basic METAR, TAF, SIGMET, Convective SIGMET, AIRMET, PIREP, and Alert Weather Watches. In an effort to make these products usable in the cockpit, the FAA has sponsored FSL and NCAR to work jointly on creating decoders for the above weather products. This effort is called the Data Link Dissemination (DLD) project.


Aviation Digital Data Service Project

During 2002, work continued on moving the operational support and maintenance of ADDS to Aviation Weather Center developers and technicians. Satellite data ingest/image creation has been fully transitioned to AWC. A TAF (Terminal Aerodrome Forecast) decoder was built that stores TAF messages in a relational database (MySql). The PIREP (pilot report) applet was upgraded to conform with new ADDS applet standards. The time selector bar widget was enhanced on the PIREP applet to allow for viewing of a composite of six hours of PIREP data or allow for looping 6 hours of PIREP data on hourly time steps. A new concept for flight service station briefings using FXC has been explored and demonstrations have been given to the ADDS advance user group, Flight Service Station personnel, and our FAA sponsors. (Figure 67 shows a new tool for ADDS that will benefit pilots during preflight planning.)

Figure 67 - ADDS PIREP Java Tool

Figure 67. Web screen showing a new PIREP Java tool for ADDS,
developed to provide pilots with preflight planning information
regarding the current status in the National Airspace.

Enhanced Traffic Management System Project

The focus of ETMS work was to help Volpe Center transition software development to their facility. Training and software source documentation was given to Volpe software developers. Volpe developers are currently extending the Northern Hemisphere Winds Aloft and Jet Stream products to the Southern Hemisphere.

Traffic Management Unit Project

The team demonstrated and evaluated the initial version of the Tactical Convective Hazard Product (TCHP) on FSL's local Traffic Management Unit (TMU) Website (http://tmu.fsl.noaa.gov - password access only) to the Dallas/Fort Worth traffic managers. The Website was enhanced based on feed back from the traffic managers from static displays of the TCHP to allow the traffic manager user to toggle on/off map backgrounds and convective products that comprise the TCHP (Figure 68). The convective SIGMET portion of the TCHP was enhanced to include convective SIGMET nowcast, convective SIGMET forecast, and convective SIGMET text. The convective SIGMET forecast is created by advecting the convective SIGMET nowcast using the motion information so that it is time matched with the National Convective Weather Forecast. A new impacted jet route map background was created using the convective products that comprise the TCHP for color-coding jet route segments. Testing, training, and evaluation plans have been created and added to the Website. The following convective products and map backgrounds make up the TCHP:
  • Convective SIGMET Nowcast
  • Convective SIGMET Forecast
  • Convective SIGMET Text
  • National Convective Weather Forecast
  • National Convective Detection Product
  • National Convective Detection Motion Vectors and Cloud heights
  • VOR (VHF Omnidirectional Range) maps
  • Jet Route maps
  • DFW TRACON scale and map background
  • ZFW ARTCC scale
  • IAH TRACON scale and map background
  • ZHU ARTCC scale
  • Impacted Jet Routes

Figure 68 - TCHP Dallas/Fort Worth

Figure 68. A Web screen showing a 1-hour forecast of the Tactical
Convective Hazard Product, developed to show aviation traffic
managers at the Dallas/Fort Worth Air Traffic Control Center the
1-hour projected movement of a severe thunderstorm in their airspace.

The traffic manager will be able to toggle on/off the other TCHP map backgrounds and convective data. The TCHP viewer is also being enhanced to allow for looping. The traffic managers will be trained how to use the TCHP in April 2003, and the evaluation of the TCHP will begin shortly thereafter. Feedback will be gathered during the evaluation period and used to make further improvements to the TCHP. Work will begin on acquiring and displaying icing products in an effort to create a Tactical Icing Hazard Product (TIHP).

Data Link Dissemination

Involvement with the DLD project began by searching for a no-assumption robust decoder that could be used by the private sector for their FISDL systems. FISDL is a VHF-based radio link to a special aircraft receiver. Land-based transmitters placed across the U.S. send weather and other important flight information to these airborne receivers. A separate cockpit display formats and shows stored information to the pilot. Textual weather information is transmitted at no cost, but the vendors charge a monthly fee for graphics, such as NEXRAD and graphical METARs. Data linked flight information helps pilots make better and earlier decisions when facing potentially hazardous conditions.

FSL and NCAR presented findings to the FAA and private vendors on METAR decoders that are available. It was recommended that the METAR decoder developed at FSL's Information Technology Services (ITS) be used as a starting point for developing a robust no-assumption decoder. FSL procured and configured a real-time ingest system in this process. The ITS decoder has been reimplemented and is being reconfigured to meet FISDL vendor requirements. Work has begun to develop a test suite so that the vendor implementation of the decoder can be verified against the FAA-funded implementation. FSL and NCAR are also developing a psuedo code for describing the decoder, and delivery to the FISDL vendor will include the decoder, test suite, and psuedo code.


Aviation Digital Data Service Project

An operational version of the ADDS will be implemented at the Aviation Weather Center, where it will be tested to ensure that implementation and support of the ADDS system passes FAA's Qualified Internet Communications Provider policy. An ADDS development and support environment will be configured and installed at the Aviation Weather Center, and developers there will be trained on all aspects of the ADDS code. The TAF decoder and MySql implementation will be enhanced to work in the new ADDS data server architecture. The TAF applet will be enhanced to take advantage of the TAF in decoded form.

Enhanced Traffic Management System Project

No new work at this time.

Traffic Management Unit Project

A Traffic Manager default TCHP display version is being implemented for use during the 2003 convective season. The default display will bring up the following TCHP maps and convective data products on the Dallas/Fort Worth ARTCC scale in auto-update mode:
  • State and ARTCC Maps
  • VOR Identifiers
  • National Convective Detection Product
  • National Convective Forecast Product
  • National Convective Motion and Tops

Data Link Dissemination

Plans are to deliver the psuedo code, decoder, and test suite to the FISDL vendors in April 2003. FSL and NCAR will help the FISDL vendors get a METAR decoder running and verified in their workstation environment. Tasks include gathering statistics on problems with the METAR datasets and creating a feedback loop to the National Weather Service to help resolve METAR formatting problems. The branch will begin work on development of psuedo-code, decoder, and a test suite for the TAF delivery to FISDL vendors.

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Advanced Computing Branch
Michael Kraus, Acting Chief


The mission of the Advanced Computing Branch is to enable new advancements in atmospheric and oceanic sciences by making modern high-performance computers easier to use and by exploiting high-speed networks and Web technologies to utilize distributed data management and distributed computing. Modern parallel supercomputers, typically composed of commodity off-the-shelf components, offer a less costly alternative to traditional vector supercomputers for the fast, efficient production of numerical forecasts. However, they are more difficult to use. The branch has developed software that simplifies the porting of numerical geophysical models from FSL, other NOAA/OAR laboratories, the National Centers for Environmental Prediction (NCEP), and other organizations to modern parallel computing architectures. The culmination of this development is the Scalable Modeling System (SMS).

Using SMS, parallelism is added to a Fortran program by inserting directives in the form of Fortran comments. SMS then automatically translates this source code into parallel source code, inserting calls to SMS subroutines that perform interprocess communication and other parallel operations as needed. Since the directives are comments, a single source code can be maintained for both serial and parallel machines. Also, automatic source code translation allows complexity to be hidden from users to a greater degree than more traditional subroutine-based approaches.

The SMS subroutines form a software layer between the prediction model's source code and Message Passing Interface (MPI), the industry standard for interprocessor communication. This layered approach provides SMS users with ease of use, minimal impact to their source code, portability, and high performance. Source codes that include SMS directives are fully portable to most high-performance computers, Unix workstations, and symmetric multiprocessors (SMPs). SMS subroutines provide high-performance scalable I/O supporting both native and portable file formats. Also, data ordering in files is independent of the number of processors used. Further, since parallel operations are implemented as a layered set of routines, machine-dependent optimizations have been made inside SMS without impacting the model source code. SMS also supports many user-specified optimizations. For example, the execution of redundant computations to avoid time-consuming interprocessor communication will reduce run times in some cases. SMS also provides tools to assist in testing and debugging of parallel programs.

The following atmospheric and oceanic analysis and prediction models have been parallelized using SMS: Quasi-nonhydrostatic (FSL), Rapid Update Cycle (FSL), Local Analysis and Prediction System (FSL), Regional Ocean Modeling System (Rutgers University/UCLA, Pacific Marine Environment Laboratory), Global Forecast System (Central Weather Bureau, Taiwan), Typhoon Forecast System (Central Weather Bureau, Taiwan), NALROM (Aeronomy Laboratory), Princeton Ocean Model (Environmental Technology Laboratory), Hybrid Coordinate Ocean Model (Los Alamos National Laboratory/University of Miami), Eta (NCEP), and a coupled POM-ice model (NASA Goddard Space Flight Center). Computer architectures supported by the SMS include the IBM SP2 and IBM Power4 Cluster, Cray T3E, SGI Origin 3000, Sun E10000, Linux clusters (Intel OA32 and IA64 and Compaq Alpha), and other Unix workstations and SMPs.


During 2002, the branch continued development and enhancement of the functionality and portability of SMS, and updated documentation with each new release. The most significant newly developed features are additional runtime debugging tools, support for more flexible decompositions, and support for most Fortran90 syntax. Training on SMS was provided for scientists from NOAA and other organizations including CIRA and NASA.

SMS was used to parallelize a convection code supporting a grant for air quality, a coupled POM-ice model for NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center, and the Large-Eddy Simulation (LES) cloud model for the Pacific Northwest National Laboratory (PNNL).

The branch continued its collaborative efforts to support the development of the Weather Research and Forecast (WRF) model, and became involved in related efforts such as the Joint Modeling Testbed (JMT). The JMT, a plan to provide a testbed for weather models which would span weather laboratories, is superseded by the Developmental Test Center (DTC), which is being replaced by the WRF System Test Plan. The design and implementation of the WRF model's I/O API was completed. The Standard Initialization was modified to provide the capability of performing output in the WRF I/O API. The WRF regression test was ported to Jet and IJet, and the compile time of WRF on IJet was cut in half.

Support continued to be provided, as needed, for the parallel RUC and Quasi-Nonhydrostatic (QNH) models, for users of the High-Performance Computing System (HPCS) at FSL and for the HPCS management team, regarding hardware and software upgrades.

The TeraGrid was studied and a proposal was written for NOAA HPCC grant funding to explore the feasibility of running an ocean model and an atmosphere model on different machines coupled over the TeraGrid. The proposal was funded.

A paper on "The Scalable Modeling System: Directive-based Code Parallelization for Distributed and Shared Memory Computers" was written and accepted for publication by the Journal of Parallel Computing.


Plans for the Advanced Computing Branch during 2003 include:
  • Use SMS to parallelize other atmospheric and oceanic models as needed. Continue to develop and enhance SMS and to port it to new computer architectures. Continue to support users of SMS and of FSL's HPCS. Provide SMS user training as needed.
  • Continue to participate in the WRF System Test Plan, which will include the porting of the NCEP Verification and Post Processing software to an FSL computer. In collaboration with the WRF community, develop a requirements document for a WRF Portal. Publish results in conference proceedings and journals.
  • Optimize the RUC code for the IBM Power4 Cluster.
  • Support ITS procurement activities, beginning this spring, for acquisition of FSL's next HPCS. Benchmark suites will be created for the procurement. The feasibility of running a coupled model over the TeraGrid for the HPCC will be demonstrated by developing a prototype coupled model and running it at FSL and PNNL, coupled over the Teragrid. The branch will produce a report documenting what we accomplished and the lessons learned, both about how to use the TeraGrid as well as possible shortcomings of the TeraGrid itself.
  • In collaboration with the International Division, support the Taiwan Central Weather Bureau in their upcoming procurement of an HPCS.
  • Help NOAA/ETL parallelize a RAMS model using SMS, and help NASA Goddard parallelize its Ocean/Ice Ecosystem model using SMS.

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Forecast Verification Branch
Jennifer Luppens Mahoney, Chief


Verification is the key to providing reliable information for improving weather forecasts. As part of FSL's involvement with the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) Aviation Weather Research Program (AWRP), the Forecast Verification Branch develops verification techniques, mainly focusing on aviation weather forecasts and tools that allow forecasters, researchers, developers, and program leaders to generate and display statistical information in near real time using the Real-Time Verification System (RTVS).

In adhering to related goals in the FSL Strategic Plan, the branch strives to maintain a strong verification program by working closely with other agencies, such as the National Centers for Environmental Prediction (NCEP), National Weather Service (NWS), and the National Center for Atmospheric Research (NCAR) Research Applications Program. The technology developed through these close interactions can benefit all agencies by building and strengthening the verification programs.

The branch is involved in a variety of national programs such as the International H2O Project, the Coastal Storms Initiative (CSI) program, and projects relating to fire weather. Another task involves development of verification techniques for evaluating precipitation forecasts, a capability that has been used to support local-scale numerical modeling efforts at FSL. Other important activities include serving as co-lead of the AWRP's Quality Assessment Product Development Team and lead of the Collaborative Decision-Making Weather Applications Verification Subcommittee.

Real-Time Verification System (RTVS)

In support of these verification efforts, scientists throughout FSL collaborate with scientists at NCAR and the NWS Aviation Weather Center (AWC) to develop the RTVS as a tool for assessing the quality of weather forecasts. RTVS is designed to provide a statistical baseline for weather forecasts and model-based guidance products, support real-time forecast operations, model-based algorithm development, and case study assessments. To this end, RTVS was designed to ingest weather forecasts and observations in near real time and store the relevant information in a relational database management system (RDBMS). A flexible easy-to-use Web-based graphical user interface allows users quick and easy access to the data stored in the RDBMS. Users can compare various forecast lengths and issue times, over a user-defined time period and geographical area, for a variety of forecast models and algorithms.

The RTVS has become an integral part of the AWRP by providing a mechanism for monitoring and tracking the improvements of AWRP-sponsored forecast products. RTVS will run operationally at the AWC providing feedback directly to forecasters and managers in near real time.

Verification Methods

The branch is an active participant, in collaboration with NCAR, in developing and testing state-of-the-art verification methods, with an emphasis mainly on aviation and precipitation forecast problems. New techniques have been developed for convection, icing, turbulence, ceiling and visibility, and precipitation. Many of these techniques are applied to aviation forecasts that have been deemed "unverifiable." Nevertheless, the development and implementation of these verification methods are leading to a better understanding and improvement in the aviation forecasts.


This year extensive verification activities supporting the transition of the Integrated Turbulence Forecasting Algorithm (ITFA) were completed. The results were used in the FAA/NWS decision process to transfer the algorithm from an experimental phase to fully operational weather product that will be supported by NWS. The ITFA algorithm (known as the Graphical Turbulence Guidance Product) will be available to NWS Aviation Weather Center forecasters and others to be used as a forecast guidance product for evaluating where turbulence may occur within the atmosphere.

From 30 July – 1 August 2002, a workshop entitled "Making Verification More Meaningful," cosponsored by FSL and NCAR and funded by the AWRP program, brought together an international group of researchers and operational meteorologists and hydrologists. The workshop focused on the development of advanced diagnostic verification approaches, operational and user issues, observational concerns, and verification of ensemble forecasts. The workshop included 9 invited presentations, 20 contributed presentations, and 10 poster presentations. Access to the presentations can be obtained at http://www.rap.ucar.edu/research/verification/ver_wkshp1.html. Some of the main conclusions presented include 1) measures of forecast quality are not equivalent to measures of forecast value; 2) there is a large loss of information — and consequently, economic value — associated with use of nonprobabilistic forecasts; 3) pilots and other aviation personnel are in need of clearly defined weather information; 4) scaling issues need to be taken into account in verification studies; 5) new object- or field-based verification approaches show promise for providing more useful information than the traditional verification methods; observational uncertainty limits how well quality can be measured; and 6) additional educational opportunities regarding statistics and verification should be made available through atmospheric science curricula, short courses, and Web-based material.

In support of the CSI project, RTVS was modified to include verification of temperature, relative humidity, and wind forecasts. Meteorologists at the Jacksonville NWS Forecast Office and at Florida State University will be using these results to determine the usefulness of local-scale modeling on the accuracy of weather forecasts. This ground-breaking work on the impact of local-scale modeling will help shape the NWS modeling activities in the future.

During the IHOP project, statistical results were produced by RTVS for four high-resolution models. The impact of the LAPS Hot-Start technique was clearly indicated in the standard statistics produced by RTVS. In addition to the standard approaches, an object-oriented approach for diagnosing errors in precipitation forecasts was implemented into RTVS (Figure 69). The results generated using this diagnostic approach brought new insights into the accuracy of precipitation forecasts produced by a variety of high-resolution numerical models. For instance, the phase and orientation errors produced in the forecasts could be clearly identified.

Figure 69 - Diagnosing Errors

Figure 69. An example of an object-oriented approach to diagnosing errors in
precipitation forecasts (Ebert and McBride 2000). Verification of Eta 12-hour
QPF for a precipitation accumulation threshold of 0.25 inches. The left image is
an Eta 12-hour QPF issued at 1800 UTC 12 June 2002 and valid at 0600 UTC
13 June. The right image is the NWS Stage IV precipitation analysis for the 12-
hour period ending 0600 UTC 13 June. Statistical scores are given below.

Several verification exercises, supporting the work of the AWRP Product Development Teams, were conducted throughout the year. Specifically, a convective exercise was held from 1 March – 31 October 2002, during which numerous high-resolution convective forecasts were evaluated over the northeastern United States. Automated forecasts for convection were compared to human generated forecasts so that the strengths and weakness of each could be evaluated. Throughout the exercise period, feedback was provided on RTVS through graphical displays and statistics to the algorithm developers and AWC forecasters.

In meeting the needs of the AWC forecasters, graphical displays depicting forecasts of turbulence, observations, and statistics were developed and implemented on RTVS for evaluation. Examples of the turbulence displays are shown in Figure 70; a plan and vertical view of the turbulence forecasts, PIREPs, and lightning data are shown on the graphic. The graphic is updated in near real time so that the information can be used during the forecast MetWatch activity. Figure 70a (top) shows the AWC human-generated forecasts (e.g., AIRMET) and Figure 70b (bottom) shows the automated Integrated Turbulence Forecasting Algorithm (ITFA). Forecasters can use these graphics to distinguish differences that may occur between the two types of forecasts. For instance, the depth of turbulence produced by the two forecasts is quite different, as indicated by the heights of the solid bars shown on the vertical panels of Figure 70a/b. The graphic is updated in near real time and made available to AWC forecasters so that the information provided on the graphic can be used to update the forecasts as needed.

Figure 70a - AWC Turbulence Forecast

Figure 70b - AWC Turbulence Forecast with ITFA

Figure 70. a, top) Plan view and vertical depiction of the Aviation Weather
Center turbulence forecast and the verifying observations. The plan view
shows the active turbulence forecasts, lightning, and voice pilot reports
(PIREPs) at the PIREP locations. The PIREP number corresponds to the
numbers shown in the plan view. The "X" axis is simply the PIREP index
allowing forecasters the ability to investigate and interrogate the raw
forecasts and observations. b, bottom) Same as above except for ITFA
(Integrated Turbulence Forecasting Algorithm).


The Forecast Verification Branch will continue with real-time objective intercomparison exercises for turbulence, icing, convection, and ceiling and visibility in support of the AWRP. New verification capabilities will be developed for aviation forecasts produced by the NWS Center Weather Service Units, and support is ongoing for FAA and NWS activities such as providing input into the development of a national verification program and the WRF numerical modeling efforts. In addition, the branch will explore verification techniques that address questions pertaining to flight operations, and participate in developing a verification program for the Graphical Area Forecast; an advanced graphically produced weather forecast that would be used directly by airline pilots. The RTVS will be enhanced to include advanced diagnostic verification approaches that will provide users with the ability to partition errors into errors that are associated with the phase, orientation, and displacement of the forecasts as compared to the observations. Extensive evaluations of the Forecast Icing Potential (FIP) algorithm and the Current Icing Potential (CIP) algorithm will be completed and provided to the FAA/NWS Aviation Weather Technology Transfer Board for its consideration to operational status within the NWS. Finally, staff will continue to develop verification tools, through RTVS, that provide immediate and useful feedback to forecasters.

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