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National Weather Service Goes Digital With Internet Mapping

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  1. National Weather Service Goes Digital With Internet Mapping Ken Waters National Weather Service, Honolulu HI Jack Settelmaier National Weather Service, Fort Worth TX ESRI International User Conference -- August 12, 2004

  2. Weather Data and GIS • Lots of observed data • 6-minute radar data around the country • 15-minute satellite imagery • Thousands of hourly reporting stations (e.g., Airports, automated stations) • 12-hourly upper air reports around the country sensing the vertical atmosphere • Other data sources (airlines, “mesonets”)

  3. Weather Data and GIS • Forecast Data • Various hourly and daily forecast products of temperature, weather (e.g., rain, snow), chance of precipitation • New National Digital Forecast Database (NDFD) producing up to hourly surface sensible weather elements on a fine national grid (2.5 – 5 km) of temperature, precipitation, wind, etc.

  4. Weather Data and GIS • Lots of data! • Although all of this data have a geospatial aspect…i.E., A latitude, longitude, and height….. • Not disseminated in a geospatial form by the agency • Rather, most disseminated in text or other formats common to the industry (e.g. GRIB, netCDF, BUFR, etc.) but not to the GIS community

  5. Weather Data and GIS • Why are weather data different? • 1) vertical factor • Many of our processing systems must be able to store, access, and view meteorological data in 3-dimensions --- not particularly supported by existing GIS • 2) time factor • Meteorologists are very concerned with changes in time…scale of seconds…minutes…hours…days…and more in the case of climate • Also, weather changes some times very quickly, such as a fast-moving tornado --- so currency of data is very important

  6. Current State of GIS Use in National Weather Service • All NWS offices have copy of ArcView 3.1, primarily for editing background shapefiles such as zone boundaries • River Forecast Centers using ESRI tools to produce hydrologic datasets and analyses • A few IMS prototypes running (e.g., EMHURR) • Still…..we’re substantially behind the GIS curve

  7. Short-fuse Warnings • NWS produces tornado, severe thunderstorm, and special marine warnings • A major product of the NWS, used to protect life and property • Warnings typically with 10-15 minutes warning time, so fast response is critical • Primary dissemination is through the EAS and NOAA Weather Radio systems

  8. Short-fuse Warnings • Historically, these have been county-based • Coordinated with county emergency managers and set to trigger NOAA Weather Radios based on county being warned

  9. Short-fuse Warnings • CHALLENGE: Counties frequently either very large or of irregular shape

  10. Short-fuse Warnings • So, weather could be actually impacting only small portion of the county

  11. Short-fuse Warnings • Since 1998, most NWS offices have been inserting polygon lat-lon pairs to define area of severe weather in these warnings

  12. Short-fuse Warnings • Hundreds of warnings issued in a 24-hour period

  13. Short-fuse Warnings • Value of the polygon concept not fully utilized though due to dissemination constraints (e.g. NOAA Weather Radio) • NWS has sanctioned a team to change fully adopt the polygon approach for issuing warnings

  14. Short-fuse Warnings • Using GIS methods, NWS will be able to apply more advanced dissemination methods (e.g., converting polygons into targeted smaller areas) • Spatial analysis will allow verification of warnings --- did the tornado occur inside of the polygon? • First efforts include real-time conversion of warnings into shapefiles: (

  15. National Digital Forecast Database • New NWS product of gridded points across the country at 5 km spacing of values of temperature, wind, weather, etc.

  16. National Digital Forecast Database • Currently data are available in “GRIB2” format, mostly only used by meteorology community • Efforts at hand to convert to more common formats, including UNIDATA’s netCDF format and into GIS shapefile and grid formats

  17. NWS Internet Mapping Systems • NWS has begun to explore ways to take advantage of new technologies such as XML and Internet Mapping Systems to better disseminate warnings, forecasts, and observations to the public • One example is the EMHURR site, which included NDFD forecast wind grids

  18. NWS Internet Mapping Systems • Future plans to use Internet Mapping Systems to improve response times and service to our emergency manager partners • Plans to install IMS servers at each of our regional webfarms to disseminate our data

  19. Questions? Ken Waters Regional Scientist NWS Pacific Region Headquarters Honolulu, HI 96813 Jack Settelmaier Technique Development Meteorologist NWS Southern Region Headquarters Fort Worth, TX 76102