the 1980's, NOAA leadership has worked to more clearly focus the agency's
attention on the highest priority Federal responsibilities in environmental
science and services. Agency management was refined with an eye towards
simplicity and the efficient management and direction of related programs.
For example, the National Environmental Satellite, Data, and Information
Service was created to consolidate NOAA's satellite and data management
activities. Similarly, NOAA's ocean and coastal resource management
activities were combined with mapping, charting and geodetic programs
into the National Ocean Service. The old Office of Research and Development
has evolved into the Office of Oceanic and Atmospheric Research which
now manages major research efforts to support improvements to NOAA's
service arms, and fulfill the agency's responsibilities for
leadership in science to improve our understanding of the oceanic
and atmospheric components of the global earth system. Throughout
the 1980's, management and programmatic decisions have all focused
on successful fulfillment of NOAA's primary mission and ultimate goal
-- the prediction of environmental changes on a wide range of time
and space scales in order to protect life and property and provide
industry and government decision-makers with a reliable base of scientific
information. The following sections summarize some of the highlights
of this dynamic agency's recent history.
the National Weather Service probably touches the lives of more of
our citizens each day than any other element of NOAA, or Commerce
for that matter, let's start there. The 1980's have seen NOAA and
the Department of Commerce embark on a billion dollar effort to modernize
the National Weather Service. The modernization is largely founded
on the implementation of three new technologies referred to as NEXRAD,
AWIPS and ASOS. These programs will provide tomorrow's forecasters
with advanced tools for observing and forecasting small-scale, fast
breaking weather events like tornadoes, severe thunderstorms, and
flash floods -- weather events which annually claim an average of
60 lives and hundreds of millions of dollars in damage in this country
radar is a valuable instrument for detecting and monitoring the movement
and development of severe storms. It is a byproduct of the radar technology
developed during the second World War in the 1940's. But the units
in today's national radar network are limited in that they cannot
routinely detect weather phenomena indicative of tornado development.
Nor can they detect accurate rainfall amounts or precise areal coverage
of rainfall. Because of their age and limited spare parts, these radar
units are difficult to service.
efforts to procure a national next generation radar -- NEXRAD -- system
began in fiscal year 1983 with funding for technology validation.
The Weather Service hopes to begin deployment of the radar by 1990.
It will incorporate technology that is expected to advance tornado
warnings from one to two minutes to more than 20 minutes. NEXRAD also
will provide valuable precipitation rate and areal information to
improve flood and flash-flood warnings and water management forecast
services when used with computer models of drainage basins.
feature of the NEXRAD radars is the application of the so-called "Doppler
Effect," named after the Austrian physicist Johann Christian Doppler
who determined that moving objects shift the frequency of sound, light
or radio waves that they emit or reflect. An example of a Doppler
frequency shift is not real, only apparent, as in the case of a blaring
automobile horn that is first high and then drops in pitch as the
car approaches and then passes an observer.
application to weather radar, the "Doppler Effect" allows the operator
to "see" a storm's wind-carried rain that is moving away from or towards
the radar. This unprecedented view of winds gives a direct and clear
indication of wind rotation and hence tornadoes in their development
will gain a new perspective of dangerous storms by viewing them over
their entire life cycle with NEXRAD radar units and the higher resolution
sensors carried by the new GOES-NEXT satellites. Thus, they will be
able to pinpoint the severe weather events more precisely from space,
and they will have a better idea of what is going on inside them.
1978, forecasters at National Weather Service field offices communicated
with the National centers and each other only via slow-speed teletype
and facsimile circuits. Gathered information was prepared in the
offices on clear acetate charts which separately depicted the various
components of weather such as barometric pressure, wind, and rainfall.
These charts would be overlaid on a light table so the forecasters
could visually assimilate the "big picture" upon which to base their
the forecasters rely on a computer-based system called Automation
of Field Operations Services (AFOS) for communications and data display.
AFOS utilizes high-speed computers, databases supported by mini-computers
at each field office, and the manipulation of data displayed on screens.
This system is outdated, however, and will be obsolete by 1990. It
lacks the capability to integrate the large-scale guidance material,
supplied by the National Centers, with radar and satellite imagery
for the local forecaster's area of responsibility. This limitation
of the AFOS system is becoming even more severe as the quantity and
quality of the fine-scale data continue to increase and improved methods
of processing, displaying and analyzing these data continue to emerge.
According to Richard Hallgren, Director of the Weather Service, "a
keystone of the modernization effort at the National Weather Service
is the Advanced Weather Interactive Processing System for the 1990's,
otherwise known as AWIPS-90, which will replace the AFOS system."
will provide weather forecasters at field offices and the National
Centers with the capability to access, overlay, and interactively
process meteorological and hydrological guidance products and data,
including Doppler radar and new satellite imagery.
substantial support for the evolution of AWIPS was a NOAA research
effort known as the Program for Regional Observing and Forecasting
Services (PROFS) which began in 1980/81. The mission of PROFS is to
improve operational weather services by testing and transferring advances
in science and technology. PROFS, using the results of atmospheric
and systems research, develops operationally-feasible forecast technology
that incorporates observations, computer processing, and human interaction.
PROFS integrates capabilities into specific systems, then tests and
evaluates those systems in forecasting exercises. PROFS works closely
with the three major operational weather services, NWS, FAA and the
U.S. Air Force Air Weather Service. In 1986 PROFS initiated the Denver
AWIPS Risk Reduction and Requirements Evaluation (DARRE) project;
by designing, installing and operating an advanced interactive forecaster
workstation at the Denver Weather Service Forecast Office (at Denver
airport), PROFS is providing the National Weather Service with a test-bed
for many of the functional capabilities planned for the AWIPS system.