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An Automated Mobile Phone Photo Relay and Display Concept Applicable to Operational Severe Weather Monitoring


The increasing use of mobile phones (MPs) equipped with digital cameras and the ability to post images and information to the Internet in real time has significantly improved the ability to report events almost instantaneously. From the perspective of weather forecasters responsible for issuing severe weather warnings, the old adage holds that a picture is indeed worth a thousand words; a single digital image conveys significantly more information than a simple web-submitted text or phone-relayed report. Timely, quality-controlled, and value-added photography allows the forecaster to ascertain the validity and quality of storm reports. The posting of geolocated, time-stamped storm report photographs utilizing an MP application to U.S. National Weather Service (NWS) Weather Forecast Office (WFO) social media pages has generated recent positive feedback from forecasters. This study establishes the conceptual framework, architectural design, and pathway toward implementation of a formalized photo report (PR) system composed of 1) an MP application, 2) a processing and distribution system, and 3) the Advanced Weather Interactive Processing System II (AWIPS II) data plug-in software. The requirements and anticipated appearance of such a PR system are presented, along with considerations for possible additional features and applications that extend the utility of the system beyond the realm of severe weather applications.

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