At the NOAA National Severe Storms Lab (NSSL), severe weather researchers and practitioners are working together on new forecasting technology that will benefit not only forecasters, but also emergency managers, broadcast meteorologists, and ultimately the public.
They are testing an Advanced Weather Interactive Processing System (AWIPS) product that is being developed to allow forecasters to interact with and provide Probabilistic Hazard Information (PHI) for severe thunderstorms and tornadoes. The specific application is known as the Hazard Services-PHI. It is being developed jointly by NSSL, the NOAA Earth System Research Lab Global Systems Division (ESRL GSD), and the NOAA National Weather Service Meteorological Development Lab (NWS MDL).
Each year, two National Weather Service forecasters, two broadcast meteorologists, and four emergency managers are invited to spend a week participating in this experiment. Each of these groups are placed in different rooms at the National Weather Center. Forecasters are in the NOAA Hazardous Weather Testbed (HWT), emergency managers work in the NSSL Development Lab, and the broadcasters are in the Oklahoma Weather Lab (a mock television studio environment).
During this simulated event, the emergency managers and broadcast meteorologists receive the PHI output produced by the forecasters and use it to perform job-related tasks. Observing the data provided, emergency managers try to decide where they need to sound sirens to protect the community. The broadcasters see the same information and practice using it as if they were on the air, and also in mock tweets. All participants provide feedback and evaluate their experience and the utility of the data.
Having an integrated warning team of NWS forecasters, broadcast meteorologists, and emergency managers all testing this new technology is important. It gives us as realistic a view as possible in a testbed environment of how the new paradigm would work in the real world.
Various modes of PHI have been in formal testing for the past six years; emergency managers have been involved since 2015 and broadcast meteorologists since 2016. The timeline for use by forecasters is still in development. Plans are currently being developed for evaluations in the NOAA/NWS Operations Proving Ground, which conducts pre-deployment readiness evaluations, and potentially NWS Weather Forecast Offices, to start an iterative process to move the tested concepts into operations.
Moving research to practice is a cyclical process of testing and evaluation. It is, by no means, something that happens quickly. But with researcher-practitioner collaboration, vital relationships are formed, and the inclusive problem-solving leads to a better overall product.