What is the Hydrometeorological Testbed?
The NOAA Hydrometeorology Testbed (HMT) is a concept aimed at accelerating the infusion of new observing technologies, models, and scientific results from the research community into daily forecasting operations of the National Weather Service (NWS) and it’s River Forecast Centers (RFCs). The HMT is designed to improve quantitative precipitation forecasts, water management decisions, and lead-time of flash flood warnings.
The HMT is a national strategy that focuses regionally on western, central, and eastern United States in separate 3-5 year periods of intense study to enhance weather forecasts and accelerate the transition of cutting edge weather research into operations. HMT combines state-of-the-art observing systems, such as polarimetric radars, with state-of-the-art forecasting techniques and numerical modeling to develop enhanced tools for forecasters. Improved hydrometeorological information is critical for forecasters and managers who make decisions about watches and warnings for high-precipitation events that can cause flooding, transportation problems of all types, landslides and other threats to people and property.
Why is it important?
Flash floods are among the leading causes of economic losses and deaths from natural hazards in the United States. Furthermore, water management decisions are costly and often involve a large number of governmental agencies. The Hydrometeorological Testbed will improve the information used by decision makers and it addresses the NWS goal of accelerating the rate at which quantitative precipitation forecasts improve.
Figure 1: California HMT Region.
How does it work?
Unlike typical research field projects, the HMT will operate as a demonstration with forecasters and researchers joining forces in the operational setting. The HMT plan, formulated within the auspices of NOAA's Weather and Water mission goal, currently targets California's flood-vulnerable American River Basin (Figure 1) for the first full-scale deployment of this highly instrumented facility, starting in the second half of this decade. Following the California demonstration, HMT facilities will be sequentially deployed to other regions of the Nation (Figure 2) to address additional serious hydrometeorology problems that are unique to those locations.
Figure 2: Testbeds implemented in different regions of the U.S.
The project will run for a few years in each regional demonstration to determine its most useful new tools for improving precipitation and runoff forecasting methods. These successful tools will remain in place and will be duplicated as the HMT moves to the next region. Through NOAA funding, HMT will provide a foundation level of effort and infrastructure each year in the test region. It is expected that this foundation will be augmented by occasional ramping-up to more intensive operations that include additional participants and specialized instrumentation (Figure 3).
Figure 3. Testbed studies leverage prior efforts to accelerate improvements in operational products.
What has already been accomplished?
The first two full-scale deployments of HMT occurred during the winters of 2005-2006 (HMT-West 2006) and 2006-2007 (HMT-West 2007) and were focused on the North Fork of the American River Basin located between Sacramento and Reno on the western slopes of the Sierra Nevada. Water from the American River Basin is a critical resource for California's economy and natural ecosystems, and the threat of flooding poses an extremely serious concern for the heavily populated downstream area (Figure 1). The frequent impact of prolonged, heavy winter precipitation from concentrated "atmospheric rivers" of moisture, originating in the tropical Pacific, underscores the area's flood vulnerability.
What is NOAA's role?
NOAA provides forecasts of precipitation and streamflow to water management decision-makers and warnings of dangerous river and flash flood conditions to the general public. NOAA’s Weather and Water Mission includes goals for improving the predictability of floods to better protect the public from losses of life and property. HMT is a concept designed to accelerate and enhance the testing and infusion of new technologies, models, and scientific results from the research community into daily forecasting operations of the National Weather Service, including NCEP, WFOs and River Forecast Centers.
What are the benefits to society?
The Hydrometeorological Testbed will benefit society by improving the quality of precipitation observations and forecasts that are used by the NWS and water management decision-makers, resulting in timelier warnings and more intelligent and cost-effective water management actions.