SR SSD 99-23

Technical Attachment

Summary and Post-Mortem of NWS Headquarters Forum on GIS
June 30-July 1, 1999

Robert Reeves, Forum Organizer
NWSH Office of Meteorology

The Office of Meteorology sponsored a two-day forum to discuss applications and requirements for Geographic Information Systems (GIS) in the NWS. The meeting was held at the Silver Spring NOAA complex on June 30 and July 1, 1999. The first day of the forum comprised presentations by a number of the participants. The second day was devoted to working group sessions devoted to short- and long-term planning. The objectives of the forum were:

a) To demonstrate some of the uses of GIS in today's operational environment;

b) To begin the process of documenting corporate applications andrequirements for GIS;

c) To discuss opportunities to incorporate GIS in order to improve operations.

Although the focus of the forum was on GIS at the NWS, and participants represented a number of field forecast offices and regions, the attendees also represented most of the other Line Offices of NOAA, academia, the private sector, and the Office of the Federal Coordinator for Meteorology. Most of the attendees were familiar with GIS on at least a basic level. Two of our university representatives have been using GIS technology in their research for more than ten years. Experience with GIS at NWS offices that were represented at the meeting ranged from the decade-long development of GIS functionality at the National Operational Hydrologic Remote Sensing Center (NOHRSC) by Tom Carroll and his team, the use of COTS (commercial off-the-shelf) GIS by Will Shaffer at the NWSH Techniques Development Lab (TDL) in his storm surge research, to recent experimentation with desktop GIS at many of the WFOs and in other NWSH Offices*.

As part of the forum we heard a series of first-rate presentations on the first day, illustrating the broad range of applications for which GIS is important at NWS. Especially impressive were the testimonials from NWS representatives who are newly-introduced to GIS, but who have nevertheless discovered applications and are already putting GIS to good operational use.

Some of my own impressions from the discussions were:

- There are many examples of value-added impact to operations, programmatically and in routine day-to-day applications.


* (Ed. Note) Representing the Southern Region at the forum were Pat Welsh (SOO, NWSO Jacksonville) and Ken Waters (SSD), both of whom presented results of their work with GIS applications, and Jonathan Atwell (Southeast RFC, Atlanta).

- The presentations provided excellent material from which to develop a compelling case for GIS.

- The participants called for a corporate focus at NWS Headquarters; the effort until now has been 100% "grass-roots."

- The NWS should expand (initiate?) dialogue with the external community, particularly with our partner agencies who are very active in GIS development and application.

Following up on the forum, we have created a list server with the help of the Office of Systems Operations (OSO), and we have placed the recorded dialogue from the working sessions on an unadvertised location on the OM Web site. The objective is to have the interested forum participants sign up on the list server, access the forum notes on the web, and contribute to the expansion of the notes from the second day of the forum into a cogent report (by October 1). We will then draft a requirements document that will help guide future activities in this area.

We plan to make the Day 1 presentations available to everyone on the OM Web site, either directly on the OM server or through an active URL link.