SR SSD 2002-07

Technical Attachment

2002 Continental East SMART Team Innovation Share Fair

Tom Bradshaw, WFO Birmingham
David Hotz, WFO Morristown

1. Overview

The NWS Southern Region field office managers have been organized into SMART groups (Senior Manager Advisory Regional Team), which are based on roughly similar geographical operational areas. The Continental East team comprises WFOs in Arkansas, Tennessee, Mississippi, Georgia and Alabama (excluding Mobile, which is in the Gulf Coast West Marine group). Also included in the Continental East group is RFC Slidell, whose area of hydrologic responsibility includes those of the group's WFOs.

The 2002 edition of the Innovation Share Fair (ISF) was held at WFO Atlanta in Peachtree City on February 26-27. The objective of the ISF was to exchange innovations among offices in the Continental East SMART area, thereby improving productivity and reducing the possibility of effort duplication. The format of the ISF consisted of short, informal presentations of programs, procedures, local studies or initiatives by each of the participants. Beneficial discussions followed each of the presentations, and a final wrap-up session resulted in the development of an action item list, which is detailed in Sec 4 of this summary.

The following is a list of the participants to the 2002 ISF:

Lans Rothfusz - MIC, WFO Atlanta (2002 sponsor)
Gary Beeley - SOO, WFO Atlanta
Jim Noel - Service hydrologist, WFO Atlanta
Greg Garrett - Senior forecaster, WFO Jackson
Steve Listemaa - ITO, WFO Jackson
Tom Bradshaw - Senior forecaster, WFO Birmingham
David Hotz - Senior forecaster, WFO Morristown
Chris Darden - Forecaster, WFO Memphis
Gerry Rigdon - SOO, WFO Memphis
Doug Pearson - Forecaster, CWSU Atlanta

2. Day 1 Activities

Prior to the first presentation, the participants discussed the overall vision for the Innovation Share Fair. Primarily, the ISF is designed to promote "idea sharing" among offices within the SMART group area. The ISF can serve as a forum for refining and enhancing existing ideas, and as a source of inspiration for new initiatives. It is also hoped that informal gatherings such as this can combat any sense of tribalism and "this is my baby - not yours" attitudes which may exist. As part of the ground rules for the ISF, presenters were expected to provide deliverables (e.g., documentation, copies of presentations and software, or FTP download sites) to the other participants.

The first presentation of the day was made by Greg Garrett (WFO Jackson) who discussed a Perl/Tk application he developed which assists in the creation of the daily Fire Weather Forecast (FWF). The FWF product contains a large array of parameters, many of which have to be derived from other observed and model fields and entered manually. Greg's FWF GUI simplifies this process by pulling many of the variables out of the AWIPS database automatically and placing them in a FWF work copy. This is accomplished by utilizing the Perl interface "AGRID," which can be used to obtain grid point data from NetCDF files. Another nice aspect of Greg's FWF GUI is that many of the derived quantities are updated as the input variables are adjusted. For example, the vent index is automatically recalculated if the mixing height is modified.

Greg also described a Perl/Tk-based severe weather GUI he created. This application consists of a map of the Jackson county warning area, and during periods of adverse weather color-coded warnings are plotted on the map. The GUI looks for new warnings and updates the map every 10 seconds. In addition, the user can click the mouse over an individual county to obtain a detailed map and list of spotter phone numbers for that county. This can be a handy way to access spotter information during breaking weather events. Greg's presentation spawned a lively discussion, during which the following enhancements were suggested:

Steve Listemaa presented an overview of an Internet LSR program he has developed at WFO Jackson. As motivation, he noted that storm reports are essential to warning operations. In addition to what have been the traditional methods of acquiring these reports (e.g., ham radio, NAWAS, phone), the Internet is becoming an important medium for receiving this type of information. Steve developed a Perl-based CGI script which allows public spotters to submit a form-based storm report to the NWS via the WFO Jackson Web page. Once the report reaches the Web server, it is sent to the forecasters' PC where it appears in a pop-up window. In addition to the storm data, the spotter's name, phone number and other contact information are displayed, in the event the forecaster needs to follow up on the report. After being quality controlled, the information is stored to a log file and sent to AWIPS as a WRKLSR file.

Tom Bradshaw discussed the Instant Messaging (IM) initiative he and Ron Murphy are pursuing at WFO Birmingham. Tom and Ron have teamed with several TV stations in the Birmingham and Montgomery markets to improve communications during significant weather events. In particular, the use of IM technology allows the NWS office to interact instantly with its media partners. TV meteorologists are able to ask questions and receive instant feedback from the NWS. For its part, the NWS is able to receive storm reports from the media, and disseminate important information quickly and easily during breaking weather.

Tom also discussed the Warning Basis Product (WBP) initiative underway at WFO Birmingham. The WBP is an Internet-based means of providing additional warning information to core users such as the media and the EMA community. When implemented this spring (2002) this product will provide users with the basis for which each Birmingham tornado warning was issued. Some sense of the forecaster's confidence will also be conveyed.

David Hotz presented a summary of 3 Tcl/Tk applications he has developed at WFO Morristown. The first of these is an SCD/SDO (supplemental observations) generation program that features an attractive interface and error-checking capability. The second program assists forecasters in the preparation of the marine/aviation notification product (OAV). This applet queries the AWIPS database and automatically supplies most of the TAF, Metar, and winds aloft information required by the OAV form. The remainder of the data can be entered manually using the simple interface provided.

David's third program enables the user to view fire weather verification information for several points in the WFO CWA. The software verifies several fire-weather parameters from the RDF against data supplied by ASOS or RAWS observations. It calculates error statistics for wind and relative humidity for a user-defined period and displays these data in tabular fashion. The software also plots this information in the form of a very nice meteogram.

Chris Darden provided an overview of his IFPS training efforts at WFO Memphis, focusing on the use of Smart Tools. He noted that AWIPS activities at Memphis are carried out in a team atmosphere, reducing the burden on one or two individuals and allowing more opportunity for involvement by the staff. IFPS implementation at Memphis consisted of a series of group and individual training sessions overseen by Chris and Memphis SOO Gerry Rigdon. In addition, Chris developed an IFPS User's Guide containing "one-stop shopping" advice and assistance for the forecasters. Included in this guide are editing tips, detailed Smart Tool descriptions, and extensive FAQ/troubleshooting information.

Chris emphasized the importance of training, particularly in regard to the use of Smart Tools. This investment in time, he noted, should result in a better understanding of the benefits of IFPS in general and Smart Tools in particular, which should result in a major long-term time savings to the forecast staff. It was noted in the ensuing discussion that Smart Tools should ideally add science to the forecast process. For example, these tools could exploit local forecaster knowledge regarding mesoscale or microscale effects such as the wedge or terrain-induced circulations or thermal gradients.

Jim Noel of WFO Atlanta discussed a precipitation forecasting technique he helped develop while serving at the Ohio River Forecast Center. His presentation focused on the use of a model-derived parameter known as Precipitation Potential (PP) which represents the product of precipitable water and 1000-700 mb mean relative humidity. Citing several case studies as examples, Jim noted that PP has proven to be a useful tool in determining the probability, timing, duration and intensity of precipitation. He has developed several AWIPS procedures which display this field in relation to other key parameters such as vertical motion, lower level and upper level jet streaks, and moisture. The final presentation of the day was made by Lans Rothfusz of WFO Atlanta, who discussed a severe weather table top exercise for emergency managers. This unique exercise is carried out jointly by NWS and EM participants, and is intended to provide a two-way learning opportunity for both parties. The EM members are broken into four teams, each representing a county within a fictitious WFO CWA. A fifth team takes the role of the warning team at the NWS office. Using a carefully choreographed script, the teams go through an imaginary severe weather event, issuing warnings and invoking emergency responses for the affected counties.

Aside from gaining an appreciation for "how the other half lives," some of the other objectives are to: 1) learn what NWS products emergency managers use before, during and after severe weather events, 2) gain an understanding of the importance of organized spotters, 3) gain an appreciation for public report "ownership" and data sharing, and 4) discover areas for improvement in NWS/EM interactions and operations. Reaction to these exercises has been very positive, with both groups noting an increased appreciation for the challenges posed by their counterparts in the warning and response community.

3. Day 2 Activities

The second day of the Innovation Share Fair started with a presentation by Doug Pearson,

a forecaster at the Atlanta CWSU. Doug provided an interesting presentation on weather thresholds that affect the Airport Acceptance Rates (AAR) at the Atlanta airport. The AAR will help determine how much space is needed between aircraft as they approach the airport.

The three weather thresholds which affect the AAR involve ceilings, visibility and wind. Doug asked the group if a program is available to produce an interactive meteogram of these parameters. A meteogram would be very useful as a means for displaying the thresholds to the aviation community. Participants suggested he contact the NCEP/AWSC, NCAR, FSL/UCAR and the Spaceflight Meteorology Group in Houston to inquire about such a program. We also discussed how we could develop the meteogram software ourselves, which later became an action item from the meeting.

Doug also gave a very interesting presentation on a study he has been working on which looks into the reasons for aircraft accidents. He showed us the weather parameters involved in the majority of weather-related aircraft accidents. He determined the main causes of accidents is pilot misjudgement. To help reduce the number of such accidents, he stated that a large outreach awareness program is needed. Doug plans on finishing up his findings and publishing and presenting the paper.

Lans Rothfusz gave us a good presentation concerning the "Voice of the Customer." He stated that each office program can be measured for quality and we should reach out to the customers to understand what is most important to them. An example was given regarding temperature forecasts. Lans indicated that through talking with customer focus groups it appears a temperature error of +/- 3 degrees F was acceptable, so WFO Atlanta forecasters will strive to meet that as a goal.

To collect additional feedback, Lans is developing a list of questions for the office staff to gather from their customers, then enter into a database. These questions will help them gauge how their different programs are performing and where improvements are necessary.

4) ISF Wrap-up

The Share Fair ended with another discussion on how to improve program development between field developers and the NWSH Meteorological Development Lab (MDL). Possible ways of eliminating duplication of effort between programmers were also discussed. In addition, a recurring theme throughout the ISF was the need to alleviate the user support workload on local programmers. To this end, some sort of assistance at the NWS regional level is desirable. Based on these and earlier discussions, the following list of action items was developed.

1) Continue development of the Warning Monitor/Spotter Map-Location software. Lead developer is Greg Garrett (WFO Jackson).

2) Develop a regional newsletter which contains a listing of current program development. The newsletter could be attached to the monthly Southern Topics.

3) Start a regional think tank of developers/programmers. The team could work with MDL developers.

4) Stage a Southern Region-wide ISF.

5) Merge existing Graphical Hazardous Weather Outlook (HWO) programs into a single software package.

6) Help develop an interactive weather meteogram.

The team decided that items 1, 4 and 6 are the highest in priority to accomplish for this year. As with last year's event, everyone in attendance felt 2002 Share Fair was a success and hoped that the Continental East Innovation Share Fair would be expanded to the entire Southern Region.