SR SSD 99-26

Technical Attachment


Michelle Webb and Paul J. Croft 1(1)
Jackson State University
Jackson, Mississippi

Alan E. Gerard
National Weather Service
Jackson, Mississippi


Areal Mean Basin Estimated Rainfall (AMBER) is a software application program that uses rainfall estimates from the Weather Surveillance Radar-88 Doppler (WSR-88D) to determine where flash flooding is likely (see National Severe Storms Laboratory 1999). The probability of flooding for individual stream basins is found by comparing the average basin rainfall with flash flood guidance or some other value input by the user.

In the spring of 1999, the National Weather Service (NWS) office in Jackson, MS began the setup of the AMBER software in order to integrate the output from the AMBER algorithms into forecast and warning operations. Toward this end, support was given from NWS Southern Region Headquarters (SRH) to hire a student from Jackson State University (JSU) to assist in the setup of the AMBER software. In addition to speeding up the process of setting up the software, it was also hoped that the student would obtain "real work" experiences in an operational meteorological environment.


The installation and setup of AMBER is an involved process, consisting of establishing and demarcating basins within the radar's effective hydrologic range. Using the commercial software package ArcView, basins and subbasins are delineated, and corresponding gage bins must be delineated by the user. The National Severe Storms Laboratory (NSSL) estimates that the process to fully install and setup AMBER can take up to eight weeks of full time work.

The project involved downloading and manipulating many different types of data to make it compatible with the software. Then, several different files were acquired to help delineate major, primary, and subdivision basins. Extensive troubleshooting was required as several roadblocks were encountered along the way.

The JSU student gained valuable experience in computer skills, particularly in the process of downloading and manipulating different types of geophysical data, as well as in using the ArcView software package. She also was involved in extensive interaction with NSSL personnel who were assisting in troubleshooting the setup process. Additionally, during times when AMBER work had to be halted due to unavoidable circumstances, the student was able to interact extensively with NWS meteorologists and hydrometeorological technicians, learning about NWS operations and operational forecasting.


The AMBER local setup process was completed this summer. Further installation and setup work will be completed by NSSL personnel, giving the NWS office in Jackson complete access to AMBER algorithm output in real time. This will greatly benefit NWS warning and forecast operations.

In conclusion, this interaction between the NWS and JSU had tremendous positive benefits for all involved. The NWS will be able to gain access to the AMBER output in a shorter time than would otherwise been possible. For JSU, it was a tremendous opportunity to give a student valuable experience in interacting with the NWS and working in operational meteorology.


This work was performed with assistance from the Jackson State University Meteorology Program under the direction of staff at the National Weather Service Forecast Office (NWSFO) in Jackson, MS, and with financial support provided by NWS SRH and NWS Headquarters Office of Meteorology. The work was finished while the JSU student was working under an internship provided by the Oak Ridge Institute for Science and Education (ORISE) Faculty/Student Research Participation Program, with financial support for this position provided by the NOAA/NWS Diversity Office. Special thanks is given to Tice Wagner, NWSFO Jackson Meteorologist in Charge, Dan Smith, NWS SRH Scientific Services Chief, and Gloria Walker and Patricia Taylor of NOAA/NWS Headquarters. We would also like to thank Ami Arthur of NSSL for her assistance during the project.


National Severe Storms Laboratory, 1999. AMBER documentation. Available on the world wide web at:

1 Corresponding Author Address: Paul J. Croft, Jackson State University, Department of Physics, Atmospheric Science, and General Science, P.O. Box 17660, 1435 J. R. Lynch St., Jackson, MS 39217-0460; e-mail: