Southern Region NWS offices were well represented at the U.S. Air Force Gulf Coast Workshop held at Eglin AFB, Florida, in early March. Problem areas shared by NWS and military forecasters that were discussed included winter weather, fog, winter and summer convection, heavy precipitation, lightning, modeling, tropical weather, and hurricanes. Approximately 40-50 participants represented several Air Force, Navy, and Army bases, as well as NWS offices.
Ten presentations were given by participants representing three Southern Region NWS offices and others involved in collaborative studies at Florida State with support from CITM and COMET. Alan Johnson (NWSFO New Orleans Area) discussed the sea fog and stratus prediction method which he and Jeff Graschel developed, based on several years of data from oil rigs in the Gulf. Al also presented work done at the New Orleans NWSFO related to forecasting heavy rains and flash flood potential, including their locally developed "Flash Flood Decision Tree" and "Precipitation Estimation Checklist." The May 1995 Louisiana flood was one of several examples used for illustration (see the recently issued Southern Region Technical Memorandum NWS SR-183).
Alan Gerard (NWSFO Jackson) covered an elevated thunderstorm and hail event that occurred in January. Brad Regan discussed NWSFO Jackson's use of the WSR-88D to accurately forecast a gust front during the SkyParade Labor Day air show in 1995. Rusty Pfost (Jackson SOO) discussed a technique for predicting wet microbursts during the summer in the Lower Mississippi Valley. The latter was a popular topic during the three-day workshop, with several other presentations dealing with predicting wet microburst winds.
Bob Carle (NWSO Tallahassee service hydrologist) and Chris Herbster (COMET post-doc at Tallahassee) discussed precipitation forecasts for Tropical Storm Josephine using the MM5 model and WSR-88D data. Irv Watson (Tallahassee SOO) showed his eight-year Southeast U.S. lightning climatology. He also discussed ways to divide the data according to local wind regimes. Irv showed examples of the RAMSDIS visible satellite climatology developed by Ken Gould (NWSO Tallahassee) and a regional lightning climatology by Parks Camp (FSU). Eric Lenning (FSU/CITM) presented work he is conducting on the WSR-88D hail detection algorithm along the northeast Gulf Coast.
The USAF invitation to participate in this workshop was eagerly accepted, and it provided an additional opportunity for NWS participants to "talk shop" with their DoD counterparts. In general, the workshop went very well. In particular, it provided a means to discuss coordination among our NWS offices and military neighbors in the county warning areas. Overall plans for the future were also discussed. For example, plans are for the Air Force to reorganize their weather operations. They will go to a five-to six-hub concept across the U.S. where weather briefings, general weather watch, and warnings are responsibilities of the hubs. The local base weather stations will be significantly scaled down to a skeleton staff handling primarily observations and a minimal metwatch, along with general staff briefing duties.