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Paperless Initiative Launched for NWS Cooperative
Weather Observer Program

Southern Region Director Bill Proenza and Systems Operations Division Chief John Duxbury meet with COOP Paperless Initiative Team at SRH in Fort Worth (Photo: SRH)

(Oct. 17, 2006) - Efforts to further modernize the National Weather Service (NWS) Cooperative Weather Observer Program (COOP) have entered a new phase with plans to eliminate cumbersome, expensive and less accurate paper reporting. Representatives from the National Climatic Data Center (NCDC); the Office of Climate, Water and Weather Services; the Office of Operational Systems; and, the Eastern, Central, Western and Alaska Regions gathered at Southern Region headquarters in Fort Worth to launch a paperless initiative for the observer program.

In addition to collecting daily observations for local NWS Weather Forecast Offices, the nation's nearly 12,000 cooperative observers also provide the data used by NCDC to create monthly climate records. Long and continuous records on temperature, precipitation and other weather factors such as snow depth, river levels and soil temperature provide a picture of a locale's normal weather and give climatologists and others a basis for predicting future trends. These data are invaluable for scientists studying floods, droughts and heat and cold waves.

Since thousands of the monthly climate record forms are hand written - some might be difficult to read, more susceptible to error and may require time consuming editing by NCDC. The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) and the National Weather Service propose to eliminate most common errors with a low cost paperless system utilizing technologies that are already in use by many cooperative observers.

Two data collection systems, in use now, include computer and telephone based technologies. The Web-Xmitted Cooperative Observer Data Encoder Report (WxCoder) is a computer based system which allows the observers to submit their reports via the Internet. The Interactive Voice-Remote Observation Collection System (IV-ROCS) simply requires keypad responses to voice prompts to report data. The data can be verified when entered and are subject to automated quality control.

NOAA is under a legislative mandate to collect environmental observations for the purpose of describing and monitoring the climate of the United States. That responsibility is shared by two NOAA line offices - the National Weather Service and the National Climatic Data Center. The purpose of the paperless initiative is to meet that responsibility with a more efficient, accurate and cost effective system.

If all goes well, a nationwide paperless cooperative observer reporting system could be implemented as early as the fall of 2007.

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