Features AWIPS
Working Group


From the HIC
It's here! AWIPS has arrived! In early February, AWIPS was delivered and installed at LMRFC. AWIPS, short for Advanced Weather Information Processing System, is the next generation computer system for the NWS. AWIPS is the final piece in the NWS modernization and should provide a single platform to store and display the large amount of data available from the NEXRAD, the new satellites, and the Automated Surface Observing System (ASOS). AWIPS will significantly increase the computing power locally and allow us to expand our operations and services. We are moving all of our operations on to the AWIPS platform and hope to complete this effort by summer. Early this year, LMRFC started routine 16-hour operations, 7 days per week. We are able to respond to requests from Weather Forecast Offices and cooperators in a more timely manner. LMRFC is able to go to 24 hour operations much easier and will continue to do so as needed.

As you can see, this has been an exciting and busy year. The rest of the year promises to be the same. We look forward to continuing to provide high quality products and services.

- Dave Reed


AWIPS (Advanced Weather Interactive Processing System) Activities
A new high-speed computer work station and communication network, AWIPS, is the centerpiece of the modernization of the NWS. AWIPS will be the nerve center of operations at all 13 regional River Forecast Centers (RFC) and 119 modernized Weather Forecast Offices (WFO). AWIPS will also be installed at several of the National Centers for Environmental Prediction (NCEP) locations including the Tropical Prediction Center (TPC), which specializes in tropical weather analysis and forecasts, and the Storm Prediction Center (SPC) which monitors and forecasts conditions that spawn severe thunderstorms and tornadoes.

It will be capable of receiving, processing, and helping the forecasters analyze the large amounts of hydrometeorological data from:

1. River Gages

2. The network of NEXRAD Doppler Radars (WSR-88D)

3. The next generation of Geostationary Operational Environmental Satellites (GOES)

4. Other data sources such as Automated Surface Observing Systems (ASOS)

5. Forecast guidance produced at NCEP, NHC, and SPC

The AWIPS system is composed of two primary elements- the forecast components and the communications network.

The National Weather Service (NWS) River Forecast Centers (RFC)s provide water resource and hydrologic forecast guidance to NWS Weather Forecast Offices (WFO)s at important points along the rivers and streams in their area of forecast responsibility. The main hydrologic forecast tool used by the RFCs is the NWS River Forecast System (NWSRFS).

The NWSRFS consists of three components: the Calibration System (CS) , Operational Forecast System (OFS), and Extended Streamflow Prediction System (ESP):

The Calibration System (CS) allows forecasters to determine model parameters for one forecast point. It runs the hydrologic models using historical data for many years for the forecast point. The user can then compare the historical observed and simulated streamflow and make adjustments to the model parameters to get the simulation to match the observed as best as possible.

On a daily basis, hydrologic forecasters use the Operational Forecast System (OFS) to provide short term (up to 30 days) streamflow forecasts. The OFS uses the model parameters determined with the Calibration System along with real-time precipitation, temperature, snow, river gage, and reservoir data to produce short term forecasts.

The Extended Streamflow Prediction System (ESP) uses an ensemble technique to create probabilistic river stage forecasts for the mid/long term time frame. It uses the current state variables of the models determined by OFS and the historical time series for model inputs (precipitation, temperature, potential evaporation) to simulate streamflow for multiple forecast points.

In order to provide the means by which the hydrologic forecasters can take advantage of the AWIPS graphical environment, the Hydrologic Research Center has developed two programs, the Interactive Forecast Program (IFP) and the Interactive Calibration Program (ICP).

The Interactive Forecast Program (IFP) is a graphical user interface for the OFS. It allows the user to select the area and dates to use in an OFS run and produces a graphical display of the model outputs. The user can use the run-time modification capabilities of OFS through the IFP to make adjustments and quickly rerun the models and display the results.

The Interactive Calibration Program (ICP) is a graphical interface ad display program that works with the CS. The ICP displays the observed and simulated streamflow values. In addition, it can display the detailed information about the state variables for the Sacramento Soil Moistures Accounting Model (SAC-SMA). The extra detailed output allows the user to better visualize what is happening in the models over time and determine reasonable parameter changes to be made. The parameters can then be easily changed, the calibration rerun, and results displayed.

All programs at the RFC will query or update a single relationable database known as the Integrated Hydrologic Forecast System Database (IHFS_DB). This ensures that all applications are utilizing the same data.

All of these improvements will allow NWS hydrologists to have more time to prepare river forecast products for transmission to an ever increasing user community . By utilizing the tools of this new processing system to interpret and analyze water data from expanding information sets, AWIPS will significantly alter the products and services the NWS provides.


Internet Information
Although many of you know we have a web site, you may not know about all the products LMRFC offers. For this edition of Crawfish Tales, the products LMRFC issues will be described. Under our products page, you will find precipitation estimates, river forecasts and meteorological guidance outlooks. The URL is:


Stage III- Stage III is a graphical representation of estimated rainfall from the WSR-88Ds in our forecast area which spans from west NC to northeast TX and from southern IL to the Gulf Coast of LA and MS. Quality control is performed on this product several times per day in our office and then products are sent sent to the web site. This information is helpful if you need to know how much rain has fallen over an area. Currently, Stage III is only an hourly product, but plans are to place the 3, 6, 12, and 24 hour and 30 day summations on the web site.

The Daily Ohio and lower Mississippi River Forecast- This product is a five day stage forecast for points along the lower Ohio and Mississippi Rivers. This product includes river crest forecasts when river levels approach or exceed flood stage.

The Hydrometeorological Discussion (HMD)- This product, issued twice daily, contains information on observed and forecasted

rainfall amounts for our Hydrologic Service Area (HSA). It also contains the flood potential for the next 24 hours.

Flash Flood Guidance (FFG)- This guidance product defines how much rain is required over a county or parish for a 1,3, or 6 hour period to produce flash flooding. When FFG is compared to Stage III rainfall over an area, forecasters can determine if a flash flood watch or warning is needed.

Extended Forecasts- The LMRFC 7 and 28 day Mississippi River forecasts are issued every Wednesday to provide an extended forecast for selected points. The 7 day product also shows river heights for the past 7 days. For the 28 day product, forecasts are based on no additional rainfall over the 28 day period and should be used with caution. The extended 28 day forecast is useful for planning purposes by river captains and other commerce interests who need to know the trend of the Mississippi River a month in advance.

Happy Surfing.


USGS Working Group
Last summer, the NWS and USGS formed a national working group to find ways to increase coordination and allow both agencies to reduce costs and eliminate redundancy. The working group contained representatives from each NWS region and their counterparts in the USGS districts. Dave Smith (Service Hydrologist at WSFO New Orleans), Wayne Hall (Electronic System Analyst WSFO New Orleans), and Dave Reed (HIC LMRFC) represented the NWS Southern Region. Representatives from NWS and USGS headquarters led the group. The work group held its initial meeting in September to brainstorm for ideas on ways the agencies could share information, data, and technology and reduce costs. After this meeting, participants drafted suggestions on coordination activities to reduce costs. In February, a follow up meeting was held at USGS headquarters. The ideas from each report were put together and another brainstorming session occurred. Members from the working group are drafting a report on sharing information and data, performing community outreach, and coordinating activities at all levels of the two organizations. The draft should be ready this summer and a final report will be presented to a joint meeting of the USGS and NWS in June. This report should be a guide for NWS and USGS offices to increase coordination efforts and reduce redundancy and costs in their operations. It has proved to be very beneficial and a great learning experience for all involved in the work group.


MAPX Musings
MAPX is a function run at the LMRFC to generate one hour gridded Mean Areal Precipitation (MAP) based on high resolution gridded precipitation estimates from WSR-88D Doppler radars. These are estimates of preciptation in gridded form rather than point measurements of precipitation using rain gage networks. The Stage III prepares and mosaics the gridded Stage II output from each radar in the LMRFC area into a 4 km X 4 km grid. The MAPX function computes hourly basin average precipitation for each LMRFC sub-basin calling these values MAPX. These hourly MAPX values are summed to compute 6 and 24 hour MAPX values.

Since the LMRFC hydrologic models run on a six hour time scale, hourly Stage III precipitation estimates may not be available for the entire six hour period. When this occurs, the MAPX function will combine hourly Stage III precipitation estimates with Quantitative Precipitation Forecasts (QPF) which are produced by Weather Forecast Offices. Finally, the MAPX values are input to the hydrologic models to produce the river forecast.


New Director of the NWS
On February 26, Brigadier General John J. Kelly assumed responsibility as the Director of the NWS. Immediately prior to joining the NWS, he conducted a comprehensive review of NWS operations and NOAA and NWS management policies and practices. From 1994-1996, General Kelly was Director of Weather Systems for GTE. General Kelly served in the Air Force for 31 years, retiring as Director, Weather and Commander, Air Weather Service in 1994.

Back to Newsletters

USA.gov is the U.S. government's official web portal to all federal, state and local government web resources and services.