Fort Worth, Texas

April 15, 1997



WARNING DISSEMINATION SURVEY. A few months ago, SRH MSD surveyed the offices to obtain a profile of warning dissemination techniques used in the Southern Region. The results of this survey were quite interesting. Gary Woodall (Regional WCM) has prepared a summary and discussion of the survey which is included as an attachment to this edition of Topics.

TWISTER KUDOS. Although the movie "Twister" didn't fare well at the recent Academy Awards, SRH's Project TWISTER is wrapping up its third successful year. TWISTER is an outreach program, geared for teachers and high school science students, which provides participants with an overview of severe weather formation, forecasting, detection, and warning. After completing the three-session training program, participants are assigned to work two "forecast" shifts in the SRH Operations Room during live or re-created severe weather outbreaks. Volunteer SRH staff members are available to answer questions, but the participants are responsible for manipulating the equipment and solving the forecast/warning problems presented to them.

We recently received a letter from one of the 1997 TWISTER participants describing her experiences in the project. She travelled from Bryan, Texas, each weekend (nearly 400 miles round trip) to participate, and her letter is attached.

LAKE CHARLES SUPPORT. Steve Rinard (MIC, NWSO Lake Charles" reported that his office has been active in providing weather support recently. A hazardous gas leak in Lake Charles required EAS activation, NWR broadcasts, and numerous briefings to Emergency Management staff over the telephone and amateur radio. Dick Gremillion, the EMC for Calcasieu Parish, thanked Steve for their support and indicated his plans to come by the NWSO and personally thank the staff for their efforts.

SCIENCE FAIR JUDGING. Richard May (WCM, NWSO San Angelo) and the SJT staff have judged a total of five science fairs in their CWA over the past month. The largest of these was the San Angelo Regional Science Fair which had nearly 200 entries. Richard and the other judges were impressed with the caliber of the projects they judged, the best of which will advance to the State Science Fair in Austin.

PREPAREDNESS NOTES. Some highlights from around the Region:

Larry Vannozzi (WCM, NWSFO Lubbock) participated in a 30-minute interview for the Lubbock Independent School District's cable television station. The interview covered basic severe weather concepts and safety rules. The Lubbock police chief was also interviewed. Larry reports that the show will be aired several times on the station through the month of April.

Paul Trotter (MIC) and Frank Revitte (WCM) of NWSFO New Orleans/Baton Rouge participated in a hurricane preparedness meeting organized by the St. Charles Parish EMA. The meeting was designed primarily for the petrochemical industries operating in the parish. Frank made a 40-minute presentation of hurricanes, emphasizing NWS forecast responsibilities and products, dissemination, hurricane hazards, and the effect a hurricane would have on the Mississippi River in the parish. According to Frank, the meeting was very positive, and everyone (25 in attendance, representing 12 industrial plants) recognized the need for coordination during a hurricane threat.

TWEB TRANSFERS. Progress toward the eventual transfer of Transcribed Weather Broadcast (TWEB) route forecast responsibility to regional spin-up NWSOs continues. Headquarters is expecting national implementation of the revised route system sometime in June 1997. The new system calls for the discontinuance of many of the regional routes, splitting up a few existing routes, and the addition of a couple of new routes.

ROML S-9-97, which was issued in March, provides guidance to our field offices on making the transfer. We have asked that affected NWSOs be prepared to assume responsibility for TWEB service by June 1, even though it is likely that the actual transfer will not take place at that time. The new WSOM Chapter D-30 is expected to be signed and distributed before implementation occurs.

FAM FLIGHT ISSUES. As many are well aware by now, Delta Airlines has discontinued its participation in the NWS FAM Flight Program. The impact is significant to many of our eligible meteorologists and meteorologist interns, since Delta has a major presence at many airports in the Southern Region. There has been no reason given as to why they discontinued their participation and no indication that they will rejoin the program at a future date.

D-31 flight coupon books are in very short supply at both National and Regional Headquarters, and replenishment is not expected until sometime in May. New coupon books are currently being reprinted and should be ready for distribution to the regional headquarters by the end of this month. Several offices have asked for new books, and these requests will be honored once our new shipment has been received.

TAF QUALITY CONTROL. All offices are strongly encouraged to utilize Tom Hicks' TAFCHECK program to quality control their TAFs prior to issuance. Recent statistics provided by Tom, who has been routinely checking TAFs from 28 sites for coding errors, indicated an average error rate of 18% for the month of February. During that sampling period, a couple of offices in the region had an alarming 36% error rate!

Tom's latest edition of the program does a very good job of checking TAFs and should be a part of each office's quality control program. If you have not already secured your copy of the program, it can be downloaded, along with supporting documentation, from the CWSU ZFW 24-hour bulletin board at (817) 858-7366. TAF interpretation is challenging enough for our customers; please don't add to it with unnecessary coding errors.

GOES-K LAUNCH. GOES-K, the next in the GOES advanced series of satellites, is scheduled for launch from Cape Canaveral on April 24 at 1:51 p.m. EDT. Once it achieves orbit, receipt of the first visible test image is expected on May 2, followed by the first infrared test image on June 2. If check-out goes well, the spacecraft will be placed in orbital storage in August.

NSTA VISITS THE CRESCENT CITY. What do you get when you add 25,000 science teachers and hundreds of science education vendors in the New Orleans Convention Center? Twenty-five thousand teachers that can now teach the do's and don'ts of life on Bourbon Street at 3:00 a.m.? NO!!! Well maybe. According to Ken Graham (met intern, NWSFO New Orleans/Baton Rouge) you get a perfect opportunity for NOAA and the NWS to promote our science at the 1997 National Science Teachers' Association. NOAA set up the fabulous display from the Olympic games in Atlanta for the event. The NWSFO added an inflated radiosonde balloon suspended high above the NOAA display. The folks at the NWSFO and LMRFC in Slidell literally gave out thousands of informational packets on severe weather preparedness, weather statistics, informational software, and of course, NOAA Weather Radio. There were times when they actually had quite a line, since most teachers have a weather unit in the classroom, no matter what the age group. A Weather Service "hats off" to Mike Shields, Robert Ricks, and Paul Trotter for taking the lead on the project. Others working hard at the booth were Alan Johnson, Suzanne Nichols, John Guiney, and Ethan Jolly. Congratulations to Suzanne Nichols for a highly praised presentation on SRH's Project TWISTER. Suzanne's presentation was quite the talk of the town with many high praises from teachers. Job well done folks! Viva next year's NSTA conference in Las Vegas, and they are prepared to give Vegas some Louisiana Lagniappe!

DISCONTINUATION OF LOCAL FORECASTS. By May 6, 1997, three more Local Forecasts will be stopped in lieu of using the appropriate Zone Forecast. The next three LFPs that will cease by May 6 are at Del Rio, Little Rock, and San Antonio. Plans are to phase out most of the remaining LFPs as time permits.


NEW HYDRO SERVICES COURSE. A completely revised and updated version of the old in-house "Hydro Services Course" has been completed and will be sent to all offices within the next few weeks. The new self-study course is called "Operations of the NWS Hydrologic Services Program." Copies are being provided to all SOOs and DOHs (along with quizzes and answer keys), and they will utilize the course as necessary to ensure that everyone at the office has an adequate knowledge of the NWS hydrologic program. The course will be administered and graded locally, and SRH (Hydro Services Division) will issue completion certificates as requested.

At this time, only interns who have not completed the original course are required to take the new one. Since the course has been thoroughly updated, however, we encourage everyone to take it, even though they may have completed the earlier version. For most of us, the original course--which was implemented in the mid-1970s--is probably a dim memory.


Hydrology Program Support, West Texas Style. Attached to this issue of Topics is a report of a recent trip taken by NWSFO Lubbock service hydrologist Steve Drillette and NWSO Midland hydro focal Point T. J. Turnage to the Big Bend National Park area of Texas. The report illustrates the initiative and effort our NWSFO/NWSOs often use to provide our customers with the best possible hydro services program.

Southern Florida Hydro Activities. While much of the Southern Region is experiencing excessive rainfall and flooding, Tampa Bay service hydrologist Frank Alsheimer reports that drought persists across parts of south Florida. Frank had a busy March, visiting the Melbourne and Miami offices to coordinate with their respective hydro focal points. Frank also took the opportunity to meet with the South Florida Water Management District (SFWMD) and USGS offices in Orlando and Miami, and with emergency management officials from several counties to discuss data collection and flood-prone areas.

NWSO Nashville Activities. Service Hydrologist Mike Murphy did a survey of the flood damage along the Harpeth and Cumberland Rivers following the flooding in early March.

Water Supply Forecasting Activities at the Forefront at NWSFO Albuquerque. Service Hydrologist Ed Polasko provided two briefings (at Santa Fe and Socorro) during March on spring snowmelt flood potential. The Socorro briefing focused on the flash flood watch/warning program so important to the southern half of New Mexico. Other presenters at the meetings included the Corps of Engineers, Bureau of Reclamation, Natural Resources Conservation Service, New Mexico National Guard, New Mexico State Police, American Red Cross, and New Mexico Disaster Assistance Program coordinators.

Busy Month of March for NWSFO Memphis Hydro Program. Flooding in the Memphis HSA kept service hydrologist Buzz Merchlewitz busy with several flood damage survey trips. The Memphis office issued 20 Flood Warnings and 322 Flood Statements in March.

SAN JUAN HYDRO SEMINAR. Hydrologists Reggina Garza and Brad Gimmested from the Southeast River Forecast Center (SERFC) in Atlanta visited NWSFO San Juan last week. SERFC is incorporating Puerto Rico into its forecast and operational support program. Reggina and Brad gave presentations enlightening the NWSFO staff about SERFC operations and products. They also worked with Eloy Colon (San Juan service hydrologist) to implement the WFO Hydrological Forecast System (WHFS) on the office HP 755 workstation. WHFS, an element of AWIPS Build 1, integrates the office hydrological database, data viewer, and applications, such as automatic generation of hydrologic forecast products, into a single software package. Reggina and Brad also met with officials at the USGS and went on a day-long field trip of several island watersheds to better enhance the RFC understanding of local conditions.


WARNING DECISION-MAKING. In March, 14 Southern Region forecasters participated in the first OSF Warning Decision-Making Workshop. As the name implies, the workshop is intended to explore issues related to the process involved in reaching the warn/don't warn decision. This is not entirely a meteorological problem. Kevin Pence and Henry Steigerwaldt, SOOs at NWSFO Birmingham and NWSO Nashville, respectively, prepared a summary of the workshop which we've included as a technical attachment this week. We also want to call attention to the fact that Dave Andra, NWSFO Norman SOO, assisted the OSF staff in presenting the workshop.

Workshop attendees took home materials (described in the tech attachment) to facilitate sharing what they learned with other staff members. SSD has also provided copies of the materials to all other offices. Last week Henry conducted two "Warning Decision-Making" seminars for the Nashville staff, based on these materials. The seminars stimulated interesting discussions, and the staff generally enjoyed the opportunity to go though the mini-scenarios, which were a highlight of the OSF workshop. We encourage all of the workshop participants (and their SOOs) to follow suit and make good use of what was provided by the OSF.

LAST WSR-88D OPERATIONS CLASS. The last four-week WSR-88D training class at the OSF will end next week. This will also mark the end of what has been the largest training activity ever undertaken by the National Weather Service (or the Weather Bureau). For all intents, every field forecaster and hydrologist in the NWS, plus many managers and interns, attended the course over the past 6 years. Many DoD meteorologists also participated. The number of individuals trained by the OSF is over 2500, and the total number of training hours add up to almost 45 years! Almost unanimously, class participants have rated the course excellent. The quality and effectiveness of the training can be easily measured by simply noting the nearly discontinuous improvement in NWS radar-based warnings. The training staff at the OSF has accomplished a remarkable feat. We salute them and say, "Well done."

The Southern Region Headquarters is proud to have played a major role in establishing the NEXRAD training group and recruiting the initial cadre of instructors. It was set up originally as part of the Norman Forecast Office.

To add a historical perspective, almost 40 years ago, when the first national radar network was implemented, a month-long training course was set up at the University of Miami, but only a relatively small group of meteorologists attended. These individuals were carefully selected to operate the WSR-57 radars (see Tech Attachment SR/SSD 97-4 in the January 1, 1997 Topics). In a real sense, they were expected to help pioneer the science of radar meteorology--which was then little more than ten years old. The OSF course incorporated much of what they and many others subsequently learned, and it helped to prepare all forecasters for a similar role.

COMET CBL NEWS. The following may be helpful information for those who have experienced problems with a lack of sound with the Convective Storm Matrix module. There is no problem; it does not have sound! When the module was published, many NWS sites did not have PDWs capable of playing digital audio. Avoiding the use of sound allowed the CBL to be used on the old PDWs. The focus of the module was to provide an exploratory environment for learning about buoyancy and vertical wind shear dependencies. The intent was not to spend too much time presenting information in an expository mode. The companion module, Anticipating Convective Storm Structure and Evolution, provides much more in-depth explanation of the processes revealed in the Matrix, and it will utilize both digital audio AND video. This module should reach offices soon.

Meanwhile, Fire Weather, the latest CBL, is on its way to all offices, along with information about how best to use the module.

LIGHTNING SUMMARY. Prof. Dick Orville (Texas A&M/CIAMS) and Alan Silver authored the paper titled "Lightning Ground Flash Density in the Contiguous United States: 1992-95" in the latest (April) Monthly Weather Review. It is interesting to note that in each of the four years, the maximum flash densities were very similar (around 11 flashes per square kilometer), but the areas where the maxima occurred varied from Florida (1992), to the Midwest (1993--coinciding with the storms and floods that dominated the summer there), back to Florida (1994), to southern Louisiana and the Kentucky-Illinois border (1995). Positive flash densities, on the other hand, had maxima in the Midwest every year.

OPERATIONAL APPLICATIONS OF NCEP ENSEMBLE PRODUCTS. The March issue of Weather and Forecasting includes an article by Zoltan Toth et al., entitled "A Synoptic Evaluation of the NCEP Ensemble." This article provides a good description of the ensemble process and includes some synoptic applications of the ensemble products. The products are available in both GEMPAK metafile and GIF formats. Since the GEMPAK files on the SRH server are rather huge (about 19 Megabytes), offices might prefer to download selected GIF images from the Environmental Modeling Center's Web pages. (From the SRH home page, www.srh.noaa.gov, select Weather Information; Weather and Climate Data; Ensemble Forecasts).

LAMP QPF NOW ON SRH SERVER. The Techniques Development Laboratory's Local AWIPS MOS Program (LAMP) quantitative precipitation forecasts (QPF) are now available in GEMPAK format on the SRH server. The LAMP QPF system produces forecasts for a 20-km mesh over the conterminous U.S. The forecasts are in the form of probabilities for five precipitation amounts, which are 0.10, 0.25, 0.50, 1.00 and 2.00 inches. Also available are best category and expected precipitation amounts, both of which are derived from the probabilities.

Function definition files (FDFs) for displaying the forecasts using the GEMPAK Analysis and Rendering Program (GARP) are also available on the SRH server. A README file containing instructions for configuring GARP and installing the FDFs and more information concerning the products, and the FDFs, may be found as LAMPQPF.README and LAMPQPF.tar.Z in the /usr1/tar_files directory on the server.

WEATHER IN THE RAWS. Various natural resource agencies (USDA Forest Service, Bureau of Land Management, Bureau of Indian Affairs) maintain a network of Remote Automatic Weather Stations (RAWS) throughout the west. NWSFO Albuquerque and NWSO El Paso have found these data very valuable in supplementing the standard network of surface observations, particularly when issuing and verifying spot fire weather forecasts for those agencies. The RAWS data from New Mexico and neighboring western states are now available on the Southern Region server in the GEMPAK format. This will allow those offices to make even better use of the data by overlaying the RAWS data and other observations on current satellite imagery on their SACs. Thanks to our western neighbors, particularly Jon Mittelstadt (WR SSD) and Ron Miller (NWSO GEG), for developing the computer code to process the data and providing access to the data on the Western Region server.



WSR-88D UPDATE. Southern Region offices have received approval to change two adaptable parameters to improve rainfall estimates during the summer. The first gives more flexibility in changing the Maximum Precipitation Rate (MAXPRA). All Southern Region radar sites, including DoD and FAA sites, can now change MAXPRA to any value between 4 and 6 inches per hour.

We are encouraging changes in the Z-R relationship to improve precipitation estimates when appropriate. The decision to change both these parameters has been delegated to the URC. Coordination with the appropriate River Forecast Centers is also required.

Southern Region is also fine tuning the dial-in requirements for its radars and the radars surrounding the region. Many of the early dial-in requirements were established before the entire network was operational. MSD, HSD, and SOD are reviewing all radar access from all PUPs.

We are also validating the port assignments to ensure optimal use of the ports and reduce the contention for the phone lines.

MESSAGE SIZE IN cc:MAIL. The following is an extraction from the published NWS Policy and Guidelines:

Message Size - cc:Mail is designed as a "messaging" system only and should not be utilized otherwise, such as for large file transfers, to emulate Bulletin Board Services, etc. Any attempts to use the system other than as it was designed should be redirected to a more appropriate application such as FTP, etc. Accordingly, all modem connections will maintain a standard message restriction.

The current message restriction is set at 250K (250,000 bytes). It is the user's responsibility to ensure that any message sent is within this limit. This size of a mail message is displayed in the message header in cc:Mail for DOS as shown below:>

[12] From: User at PostOffice 5/23/95 11:51AM (1365 bytes: 6ln)

or adjacent to text and/or file items in cc:Mail for Windows as shown below:

Text Item (8980 bytes).

Any message that is held in queue due to exceeding the current message restriction will be automatically deleted. No notification of an undelivered restricted message will be generated from this point forth.


MISSING DATA REPORT. NCDC (National Climatic Data Center) has released the Cooperative Program missing climatological data statistics for the months of November and December 1996. The Southern Region DAPM/HMT teams continue to lead the nation. While the national average for missing data was near 2%, the Southern Region teams have kept the average below 1% for the last six consecutive months. The Southern Region teams have had percentages above 1% for only three months in the past year. These DAPM/HMT teams are to be complimented on the great job they have done to protect this extremely vital program.

PC-ROSA OPERATIONAL. The PC-ROSA system for observer data collection has been successfully installed across the Southern Region. Collection sites have been established in San Angelo, Shreveport, Jacksonville, and San Juan. These site all have 800# lines to allow observers to report data that are encoded into the AFOS. The old Touch-tone system at Tampa Bay failed the day following the Jacksonville installation which forced an acceleration of the training for observers in the area. As of this writing, almost 75% percent of the observers have been retrained, and a few DAPM/HMT teams report 100% conversion to the new system. Keep up the great work.

QUALITY CONTROL. Since the conversion to METAR, NCDC no longer provides error reports from the surface observation forms submitted each month. The responsibility to quality control these observations has been shifted to the local office. This includes reviewing the observations from SAWRS/LAWRS sites within the CWA and providing correction reports (B-14) to NCDC and the observation site. Many of the contract observing sites use these reports to supplement observer training.

Return to Southern Region Home Page