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Fort Worth, Texas

February 15, 1997


THE LATEST NEWS. The following note was received February 12, 1997, from the AWIPS Program Office:

Secretary Daley today approved the AWIPS limited deployment. This authorizes NOAA to procure and install 21 systems this calendar year and has an option to procure an additional 18 systems to ensure the continuation of the production line. A decision on the remaining AWIPS systems will be sought after the operational test and evaluation of AWIPS Build 3 this fall.

We will be working with PRC to determine the timing of this installation and will keep you informed.

Thanks to the many people that have worked so hard to make this important step possible. Please ensure this message gets to the many participants in the AWIPS Program.

Mary Glackin

AWIPS SOFTWARE UPGRADE IN TULSA. Bruce Marshak traveled to NWSO Tulsa to observe the AWIPS software upgrade process to version 1.2 during the week of February 3.

For your information, a weekly conference call is held with the ESAs at the AWIPS demonstration network sites to discuss how things are going. During the previous week's call, the software upgrade process and results were discussed extensively. A suggestion was made that the site getting the upgrade call the AWIPS Network Control Facility (NCF) an hour or so before the upgrade process was scheduled in order to have additional expertise in place if the site had trouble. The Pleasant Hill, Missouri, NWSO/RFC was the initial field test site for this software installation; and ESA Steve Waterman suggested that some changes to the procedure were required. Armed with both the initial and Steve's revised procedure, ESA Isaiah Daniels at Tulsa started the process for the upgrade. A telephone call was placed to the NCF as requested, and the AWIPS focal point completed some backups to the system.

Using the procedures, we "untarred" the upgrade files which had been sent from the NCF to NWSO Tulsa via the AWIPS terrestrial (frame-relay) network. Isaiah then followed the procedures, basically running a script, and proceeded to upgrade the site software. Most of the upgrade went smoothly. However, NCF personnel called to say they were watching the system and noticed that some things did not go as intended. A known deficiency in the process, called an end-all reboot, evidently did not occur. NWSO Tulsa is not the only site to experience this problem. Some of the other sites did have a successful end-all reboot. We followed the procedures, made the checks in the procedure, and then did as suggested by the NCF. Our big problem was that DS1 (the primary Data Server) would not reboot properly.

One fault that continually occurred was that DS1 could not find all of its disk drives upon reboot. Isaiah and the NCF worked together in troubleshooting the problem. At one point, NCF wanted to make sure that we didn't have a hardware problem and called Hewlett-Packard (HP). The HP Field Engineer (FE) checked the hardware and could not find any problems. Isaiah, the FE, and NCF worked diligently for several hours. After checking many things, a software problem was determined. NCF personnel tracked down another expert from PRC for additional support. The team was able to get the disk drives working and brought the system back on-line with some limitations. A number of items were not corrected until the following afternoon; but NCF and Isaiah, working together, got them straightened out.

Although nobody likes to run into problems, this experience was good for the overall AWIPS effort. We have a demonstration network, and the system works. NCF personnel worked with Isaiah, calling out HP when considering it to be a hardware problem, and then drew upon additional resources when they could not help us alone. We conducted a special conference call with Weather Service Headquarters and discussed our experience at NWSO Tulsa. We reviewed the process and made some recommendations to refine and improve the support process. Positive progress is being made.


SMG--FIFTH SHUTTLE-MIR DOCKING MISSION. The Space Shuttle Atlantis landed at Florida's Kennedy Space Center (KSC) Shuttle Landing Facility (SLF) at 1423 UTC (9:23 a.m. EST) on Wednesday, January 22, after a ten-day mission. Atlantis had launched from KSC's Pad 39B on Sunday, January 12, at 0927 UTC (4:27 a.m. EST).

For launch, the return to launch site forecast for KSC called for scattered low clouds and patchy shallow ground fog. High pressure covered the southeastern U.S., and there was a weak east-west stationary front over central Florida, south of KSC. Surface winds at KSC were light north to northwest, and westerly aloft. Due to abundant low level moisture, there were minor concerns early in the launch count that the low clouds might become broken, or that the shallow fog might thicken and reduce visibility. Sounding balloons and reconnaissance reports dispelled concerns about the clouds. Patchy ground fog was being reported in the surface observations, but winds just above the surface were strong enough to preclude widespread fog. High pressure also covered the three overseas abort landing sites. Less than 30 minutes prior to launch, low clouds were detected approaching the runway at Zaragosa. The forecast was amended to "NO GO" for a low cloud deck, and the prime overseas abort site was changed from Zaragosa to Moron.

For landing day, high pressure over the western Atlantic ridged southwest over the Florida peninsula. Low level winds were southeasterly. The forecast for the first landing opportunity at KSC called for broken low clouds--"NO GO." Low ceilings were evident on satellite imagery over the water, and cloud level winds were southeasterly, bringing clouds in from offshore. Through the landing count, balloon soundings indicated no change to the saturation or to the wind direction at the cloud level. Surface observations at the SLF went from broken to scattered three hours before landing, and remained scattered until the first de-orbit decision point. However, with no clear and convincing evidence that the clouds would stay scattered through landing, the forecast was held at broken--"NO GO." The NASA Flight Director at Mission Control waved off the first opportunity. The low clouds went broken immediately following that decision and then became scattered again. For the second opportunity, the balloon soundings indicated drying at the cloud level with only minor veering of the winds. The low clouds remained scattered. Visible satellite imagery became available, yielding better resolution of cloud groups, directions, and speeds; and the forecast was amended to "GO." The Flight Director gave the crew a "GO" to de-orbit, and the shuttle landed a little over an hour later under almost clear skies.

Lead Meteorologist for STS-81 was Karl A. Silverman, working his 19th mission, third as Lead. Steve Sokol was Assistant Lead, and Doris Rotzoll worked as the Lead Techniques Development Unit (TDU) Meteorologist.

SMG web page:

PROGRAM ACCOMPLISHMENT REPORTS (APAR) STOP. An era came to an end January 10 when the Program Accomplishment Reports with December 1996 data were transmitted on AFOS. Some products will continue to be "counted" as they pass through Gateway, but tabulations and transmission of the data by field offices has officially ceased. Accordingly, ROML S-9-91 filed with WSOM A-10 on APAR has been canceled. For those who may recall, PAR data prior to transmission on AFOS was submitted monthly to Southern Region Headquarters on NOAA Form 12-8a. With the phase-out of the paper form, Gordon Hammons in SSD prepared a program that collected the PARs sent on AFOS. Undoubtedly, the PAR data collected over the years has contributed to a database that gives an indication of the magnitude of the products and services the NWS performs. For the fifth year in a row, the Southern Region had the best record in the NWS regarding APAR entries that were received on time and with no format errors. Congratulations to everyone for their outstanding support of the PAR Program.

NWR PROMOTIONAL GUIDE FOR A NEW CENTURY. A copy of Kenneth Graham's "National Weather Service--NOAA Weather Radio Promotional Guide for a New Century" has been distributed to NWS national and regional headquarters and all Southern Region (SR) offices. Ken (Meteorologist Intern at NWSFO New Orleans) prepared the guide during his recent "STAR" (Southern Region Training and Achievement Residency Program) assignment at SR Headquarters. NOAA Weather Radio (NWR) is one of the most important programs in the NWS. Changes under way in the communications industry, warning programs, and in the NWS Modernization and Restructuring (MAR) make NWR more important than ever. The timing and relevance of Ken's NWR guide are excellent. His consolidation of promotional ideas on NWR should be useful in each office's NWR program and in its application toward accomplishing the mission of the NWS. We believe everyone will find the guide beneficial. His fine work on this NWR "STAR" project is appreciated.

SAME/EAS. New information concerning operation of the NWR Specific Area Message Encoder (SAME) system and its use with the Emergency Alert System (EAS) has been distributed. The latest material primarily deals with the setup and operational procedures used with the Required Weekly Test (RWT) for all offices and the Required Monthly Test (RMT) if it is outlined in state or local EAS Plans.

MARINE RADIOFAX. The new marine radiofax schedules began on February 4 from Boston, New Orleans, and Pt. Reyes. To see the new schedules, check out the NWS marine radiofax home page. This page has been updated and includes the fax schedules in an ASCII format: (

MARINE FORECASTERS NOTES. A new link has been added to the Southern Region's marine home page, "Marine Forecasters Notes." These pages are for informational purposes only and are not intended to be technical attachments. If you would like to share your past forecasting experiences, i.e., rules of thumb you have used, or things you have noticed when working in the marine environment, contact the Marine Program Manager, Mario Valverde, at SRH.

The first note, posted by Don Ocker (WCM, NWSO Brownsville), is on stability.

FIRE WEATHER NEWS. The COMET Fire Weather CBL module is at the publisher and should be in your office by mid-March. Attendees of the Fire Weather Forecaster's Course in Boise should try and complete the module before going to the course. The time estimated to complete this module is ten hours. More information on this and other CBLs is available on COMET's home page (

MAREP NEWS. Thanks to NWSO Brownsville's efforts, MAREP finally became operational on South Padre Island January 2. The program was announced via an MWS and NWR January 18-19, after two-and-a-half weeks of test operations. The program and our MAREPS cooperator were featured as the lead story on KGBT TV-4 10 p.m. news Monday.

Many thanks to those who helped--first to Mark Keehn who spent much effort trying to get the program working at Jim's Pier; Perry Martin who set up the system configuration now in use; and Bob Wittreich and Alan Del Castillo who made the hardware adjustments to make it work.

PWB EXAMINATION GUIDANCE. In this edition of Topics, Robert Molleda (NWSFO Miami) shares with us some personal tips and insight into conducting oral pilot weather briefing examinations. Robert recognizes that many of the WCMs and evaluation officers in our field offices have limited experience in conducting these examinations and could use some guidance. His contribution is included as an attachment.

PREPAREDNESS NEWS. Bruce Burkman (WCM, NWSO Shreveport) had a television interview with Monroe KTVE Channel 10 Saturday morning, February 8. Subject matter extended from the Simsboro tornado to Skywarn training. After the interview, he conducted a Skywarn training session for Ouachita Parish. Over 40 Ham radio operators, emergency managers, and law enforcement personnel from several parishes attended, with 20 new spotters being recruited. This brings the Shreveport spotter list over the 900 mark, or 60 per cent of its CWA.



Continued Dry in the Sunshine State. NWSO Tampa Bay service hydrologist Frank Alsheimer says that most of the HSA received about 25 to 50 per cent of normal rainfall in January. The Tampa International Airport has received below normal rainfall in six of the last seven months. The Southwest Florida Water Management District continues its ban on all irrigation between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m. Also, lawn and landscape irrigation remains limited to two days per week.

South Texas Drought. A great deal of South Texas remains in drought stress. Rainfall deficits for the period October 1995 through January 1997 as reported by John Patton, senior service hydrologist at NWSFO New Braunfels include: Sabinal which has received 60 per cent of normal rainfall; Hondo which has received 58 per cent of normal rainfall; New Braunfels which has received 52 per cent of normal rainfall, and San Antonio which has received 50 per cent of normal rainfall. Reservoir levels also remain critically low. Choke Canyon Reservoir is at 25 per cent of normal storage, with Lake Corpus Christi holding 36 per cent of normal storage, Lake Amistad registering 40 per cent of normal storage, and Falcon Reservoir reporting only 23 per cent of normal storage.

Wetness in Memphis. Farther to the north, though, the ground remained quite wet. Buzz Merchlewitz (service hydrologist, NWSFO Memphis) says that seven river forecast points in the Memphis HSA went above flood stage during January as above normal precipitation was registered throughout the area. Amazingly, the Tallahatchie River near Swan Lake remained above flood stage for the entire month.


Hydrologic Weed Control. NWSO Shreveport service hydrologist Craig Ross reports that the Louisiana Department of Natural Resources may lower the gates of Lake Bistineau next year in an effort to destroy hydrilla weed growth that has been infesting the lake. The lowered lake levels will expose the hydrilla growth during the cold winter months with the subfreezing temperatures then destroying the weed.

Manual Labor. Service hydrologist Steve Drillette (NWSFO Lubbock) recently completed work on a "Quick Reference Hydro Manual" for the Lubbock HSA. Included in the manual is critical, readily accessible information (stage information, site location, necessary contacts, data sources, etc.) for all forecast points, automated gage locations, and reservoirs on the front page, with the corresponding E-19 staff gage found on the backside. Steve plans on creating a similar manual for the Midland and Amarillo HSAs soon.

Rivers Running High in Arkansas. Steve Bays (service hydrologist, NWSFO Little Rock) engaged in quite a bit of coordination during January. The White and portions of the Ouachita Rivers remained above flood stage for the first week of the month, primarily due to Corps of Engineers reservoir releases. These releases brought the reservoir elevations back to conservation levels. However, very cold temperatures created energy demands which forced the Corps to engage in prolonged energy releases from the multi-purpose reservoirs. These large releases held the White River above flood stage until January 17 at Augusta, Arkansas. Consequently, Steve was kept busy coordinating with the Corps and river observers for the issuance of river statements for the White and Ouachita Rivers.

ALERT Dedication. On January 29, Bob Carle (service hydrologist, NWSO Tallahassee) attended ALERT dedication ceremonies held at two base station sites--Elba and Geneva, Alabama. The ALERT systems were installed by a Corps of Engineers contractor and offer a flood warning system consisting of 13 remote stream and rainfall gauges, one rainfall-only gauge, and four data repeater stations within the Pea and Choctawatchee River Basins of southeast Alabama and the Florida Panhandle. It is anticipated that flood warning times for residents of Elba, Geneva, and surrounding communities will be increased by 6 to 30 hours, depending on the rainfall patterns experienced. Dedication speakers included Congressman Terry Everett (U.S. District 2) and James Sasser, the executive secretary to Alabama Governor Fob James.

QPF Brainstorming in South Florida. Jere Gallup (hydrologic focal point, NWSFO Miami) reports that the forecast staff held a couple of impromptu "mini-discussions" regarding the output from the office's first month of QPF verification. QPF focal point Dan Brown helped familiarize the forecasters with the statistical parameters used by the program and helped evaluate the final numbers. Dan also summarized the results in a report posted for the staff. These "mini-discussions" are a great way for forecasters to improve their understanding and knowledge of QPF. Thanks Jere, and way to go Dan! Your efforts will surely pay off as we continue to improve our QPF efforts. By the way, initial figures from NWSFO Miami suggest an underforecasting tendency for heavy rain events and an overforecasting tendency for lighter events. While sample sizes are quite small at this time, the results are in line with other offices across Southern Region.


Thai Visit. On January 31, 15 delegates from Thailand visited the LMRFC to learn about forecast operations. The Thai government is interested in implementing the NWSRFS forecast system and the Interactive Forecast Program (IFP) in Thailand. The group also received a demonstration of the IFP.

UNIX Training. LMRFC senior hydrologist Randy Rieman is providing LMRFC staff members and selected members of the WSFO New Orleans staff a course in Basic UNIX. Randy is covering all the material provided to SOOs, DOHs, and AWIPS Focal Points at the NWSTC Basic UNIX course.


INTERESTING WEB SITE. Scientists at NOAA's Forecast Systems Lab in Boulder, Colorado, are heavily involved in both atmospheric research and National Weather Service modernization. Most are probably well aware of FSL's work on projects such as the profiler network and WFO-Advanced. Occasionally, FSL publishes a colorful bulletin (FSL Forum) which summarizes recent research and on-going projects. We would like them to provide copies to all NWS offices, but the cost is prohibitive. The FSL Forum will soon be on-line, however, at The latest (December) issue contains articles on new quality controls to eliminate bird contamination in profiler hourly winds, 3-D visualization techniques that are being developed as a key part of WFO-Advanced (and AWIPS), status of the GPS precipitable water vapor observing system, and mesoscale modeling support that FSL provided to the Olympic Games last summer. It's worth keeping an eye out for.

The FSL website is also loaded with other information (and data) that will be of interest to forecasters. What's there is too numerous to mention. Check it out.

AMS HONORS. Many honors and awards were presented last week at the American Meteorological Society's 77th Annual Meeting in Long Beach. Southern Region recipients were highlighted in the Topics last month, but here is a summary of several of the awards that are relevant to NWS and Southern Region interests:

NWS Spaceflight Meteorology Group (NASA/Houston)--Special Award for pushing the limits of mesoscale weather forecasts in support of NASA's Space Shuttle mission for more than 15 years.

Greg Jackson (SOO, NWSO San Angelo)--The F.W. Reichelderfer Award for development of computer programs that greatly facilitate preparation and issuance of special weather statements for the public.

Kermit Keeter (SOO, NWSFO Raleigh)--The Charles L. Mitchell Award for leadership in forging strong collaborative applied research relationships between forecasters and university professors and students. (Kermit began his NWS career at WSFO Ft. Worth and was at the forefront of early efforts on QPF and heavy rain forecasting techniques.)

Ira Kosovitz, Bruce Renneke and David Willson (forecasters at NWSFOs Seattle and Portland)--The Exceptional Specific Prediction Award for forecasting well in advance a very severe windstorm that struck Oregon and Washington on 12 December 1995.

Les Lemon (Lockheed Martin Corp.)--The Award for Outstanding Contribution to the Advance of Applied Meteorology for pioneering work including design and development of the WSR-88D Doppler weather radar system.

John Nielsen-Gammon (Texas A&M University)--The Editor's Award/Monthly Weather Review for timely, concise and insightful reviews of manuscripts.

Jim Purdom, Paul Menzel (NOAA/NESDIS) and Dennis Chesters (NASA)-- Special Award for extraordinary leadership efforts in introducing information from the new GOES series to weather forecasters throughout the Western Hemisphere.

Aside from calling attention to well-deserved honors, we hope the above will also serve to remind everyone that we will soon be requesting nominations for this year's awards. Check any recent issue of the AMS Bulletin for specific information about the various award criteria. As the above shows, several are particularly relevant for NWS employees.

RECENT PAPERS. The latest (September 1996) issue of the NWA's National Weather Digest contains two papers by Southern Region authors:

"Downbursts," by Mark Rose (NWSO Nashville). As the succinct title suggests, this is a thorough summary of downbursts, their characteristics, and the conditions under which they occur. A basic forecast technique for wet microbursts in the Southeast is also discussed.

"A Well-Organized Thunderstorm Outflow in Florida," by Ron Holle (NSSL), Irv Watson (SOO, NWSO Tallahassee) and Dan Purcell (OSF). An interesting analysis of photos taken during the Florida Area Cumulus Experiment (FACE) in 1975.

The same issue of the Digest contains a nice summary titled, "What Does Quasi-Geostrophic Really Mean?" by David Billingsley (SOO, NWSFO Boise).

CALL FOR AVIATION RELATED WEATHER RESEARCH TOPICS. The National Weather Association's Aviation Meteorology Committee is soliciting input from anyone working on projects related to this subject. Their goal is to develop a topical reference list on the committee's Web page which will assist anyone involved in aviation weather forecasting. Please respond to Dave Knapp via E-mail or by mail to 740 Windmill Drive, Las Cruces, NM 88011-8041. The following format for input is requested:

Topic (icing, turbulence, wind shear, visibility, etc.) Name(s) of researcher(s) Affiliation/Mailing address
E-Mail address
Brief description of topic (just a few sentences)
Project status (on-going, planned, on hold, etc.)
Plans for publishing results (tech report, conference, etc.)
Expected completion date
CHANGES TO THE ETA MODELS. On February 18 a series of changes was implemented in both the operational early Eta (48km/38level) model and the operational meso Eta (29km/50level). These affect model physics as well as processing and output. A brief description of the changes is included as a technical attachment this week. Also, during the coming spring, look for the meso-Eta to replace (become) the early Eta.

TECHNICAL ATTACHMENTS. In addition to the above, other technical attachments this week are:

"New Records in NCEP Precipitation Forecasting," by Brian Korby and Mike Eckert (NCEP/HPC).

"An Elevated Severe Thunderstorm Complex Over Southeast New Mexico and West Texas," by Corey M. Mead and Thomas W. Earle (NWSO Midland).



ABT REPLACEMENT. In December, field offices received approval to remove the old IBM-XTs that were used for ABT and SRWarn. The only catch was that the replacement system be able to fulfill four requirements: supplement the AFOS console product generation capability; serve as a terminal to run the SRWarn application for generating official NWS warnings; serve as a terminal to the MAPSO application (if applicable); and provide both a dial and dedicated communication back-up for a site to generate and disseminate local warning products when the communication host system is inoperable. We have received notification from a handful of offices stating that they have replaced the old system. If your office would like to use an alternate means for the ABT function, please let us know.

STATION ID UPDATE. Southern Region offices should have received the latest Station ID version on February 12. Please update your AFOS systems as soon as possible.

LONG DISTANCE CALLING--TO CELL OR NOT TO CELL. Did you know, that on the average, a long distance call made with the FTS2000 calling card costs the government about 3.5 cents per minute? The same call, made with a cellular telephone, can cost $1.50 per minute or more (depending on how far you are calling). Even local calls on cellular phones quickly add up when the initial monthly "free air time" is gone. The point is, only use the cellular telephone for long distance calling when absolutely necessary. Otherwise, use pay phones! They are available in most places.

UPPER AIR STATISTICS. The monthly "NCEP RAOB Data Quality Citations" (SOD Attachment #1) and the "NCEP ROAB Reliability Citations" (SOD Attachment #2) statistical graphs for all of the regions are given. The graphs cover the last four months (October 1996 through January 1997). Please note the 100 per cent reliability record of three Southern Region sites: Corpus Christi (Dave Davenport/Don Parkerson and company), San Juan, (Fransico Baeze Balleste/Fred Parra y compania), and Tampa Bay (Ralph Walker/Dan Collis and company). A total of six sites in the National Weather Service have this reliability record. On the data quality front, Birmingham, El Paso, Jackson, Little Rock, Midland, and San Juan have maintained a data quality record below the national average. Well done!

cc:MAIL OVER FRAME RELAY. Just a week after pulling the latest NTROUTER program from the Lotus Web page on the Internet, Leon Minton worked with ESAs at seven WFOs to get cc:Mail messages to flow over the Frame Relay. This was made possible because the NTROUTER program recognizes the native TCP/IP protocol of the Windows NT Servers (version 4.0) used to host the Southern Region networks. This process eliminates long distance phone calls to exchange messages and provides message transfers every 15 minutes instead of every hour or more. Leon continues to work with more offices each week to bring the number of offices using cc:Mail over the frame relay closer to 30.


JEFFERSON AND HOLM AWARD NOMINATIONS. Southern Region Headquarters is reviewing the 1997 Jefferson and Holm award nomination packages and will forward them to NWSH soon. A large number of nominations were received in the last week. A total of seven Jefferson nominations and 23 Holm nominations will be submitted.

PC-ROSA UPDATE. Authorization for travel to install this much needed system has been received. We hope to begin the installation with the Shreveport and San Angelo systems in late February and early March. We will then install the systems in Jacksonville and San Juan in mid-March. As part of the installation, training sessions will be conducted for the local DAPM/HMT team plus any additional team members from surrounding offices who are available.

MISSING DATA REPORT. NCDC has released the missing data percentages for September and October 1996. The Southern Region DAPM/HMT teams continue to lead the nation with the largest quantity of cooperative data reaching NCDC for publication. The regional average was 0.9 per cent missing data for September and 0.7 per cent for October. The national averages for the same two months were 2.4 per cent for September and 1.9 per cent for October. All DAPM/HMT teams are congratulated on this accomplishment.

OBSERVING CERTIFICATES. The Southern Region has developed a new certificate to replace the current WS Form B-61-1 (5-88). The new certificate automatically prints from the new database (Access). While this process saves a great deal of time for SRH personnel, it also produces a very attractive certificate. Watch for the new certificates to be issued to an observer in your area in the very near future.

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