1979 to Present – Modernization and Technological Advances
In late 1979, Tice Wagner III became the Meteorologist-in-Charge (MIC) of the Jackson WSFO (Weather Service Forecast Office). During the 1980s, computers became more prevalent in weather forecasting and warning operations. In 1982, the antiquated teletype systems that had been used for decades were replaced by a new computer system called AFOS (Automation of Field Operations and Services). Following the Pearl River flood in 1979, a sophisticated hydrological data collection and transmission system was deployed for the Pearl River basin. This system was tested and passed with great success during the second worst flood on the Pearl River at Jackson in April. By the late 1980s, computer programs had replaced most of the manual work associated with processing radiosonde observations.
Technological advances continued in the early 1990s when automation of surface observations became a key element in the modernization of the National Weather Service. One of the first Automated Surface Observing Systems (ASOS) in the nation was commissioned at Thompson Field in 1992.
The Doppler principle, which enables radars to “see” wind velocity in thunderstorms, has been known to scientists for a long time. During the 1980s, plans were developed for a sophisticated radar system to replace the steadfast and durable WSR-57, then nearing 30 years old. By November 1992, when the devastating Brandon tornado moved through Mississippi, implementation of the new Doppler was beginning nationwide. Called the WSR-88D because it has the Doppler capability and was built in 1988, the new radar was accepted at Jackson in March 1993 and was commissioned in February 1995. To provide more efficient warnings from the nearest Doppler radar, Warnings and Forecast Offices (WFOs) were established and were assigned responsibility for counties and parishes depending on radar coverage and distance. For the first time, WFO Jackson accepted responsibility for counties and parishes outside of the state of Mississippi. Areas transferred to the Jackson WFO forecast area on April 4, 1995 included nine parishes in northeast Louisiana and two counties in southeast Arkansas, as well as most of the counties previously assigned to the former office of WSO Meridian and one from the former office of WSO Tupelo. Along with the WSR-88Ds at Memphis, Tennessee; Columbus MS Air Force Base; Mobile, Alabama; Slidell, Louisiana; Fort Polk, Louisiana; Shreveport, Louisiana and Little Rock, Arkansas, Mississippi is now entirely protected under the Doppler umbrella.
Internet web services began during 1993 when offices were encouraged to locally develop a presence on the World Wide Web.
In April 1999, AWIPS was installed at the Jackson office, which dramatically improved methods of weather and hydrology forecasting/monitoring and communications. On August 26, 2000, Tice Wagner III retired after nearly 21 years as MIC and Jim Stefkovich became the new MIC. Mr. Stefkovich served the ArkLaMiss region until August 2002, when the Science and Operations Officer, Alan Gerard, was selected as the Meteorolgist-in-Charge.
More recent advancements at WFO Jackson have included implementation of the Graphical Forecast Editor (GFE) system which allows forecasters to issue graphical images of forecast parameters along with the text products that are posted to the internet for use by a wide array of users. The WFO Jackson web site is constantly evolving and currently provides services as wide ranging as weather information in Spanish to RSS/XML libraries.
Much of this history is comprised of information from research done by Mr. Murray W. Smith, prepared in 1949 and Gary Grice, prepared on 2006.