Reinvention Goals for
The National Weather Service (NWS) has a direct impact on the well-being of America and a history of accomplishment as a designated NPR "High Impact Agency." The successful completion of a $4.5 billion investment program in weather service modernization has dramatically improved NWS performance, especially for warnings of dangerous weather, and is making a significant contribution to the American economy. At the same time, restructuring office operations has closed 184 offices. Continued improvements in the context of the five reinvention goals for the NWS are reported below.
|Delivering Great Service||Internal Reinvention|
|Goal: NWS-01||Goal: NWS-04|
|Goal: NWS-02||Goal: NWS-05|
Delivering Great Service
Goal: NWS-01 Generate annual savings to the economy by improving the quality and utility of environmental forecasts and services.
Former U.S. Secretary of Commerce William M. Daley said, "Weather is big business. It can help or hurt a community. One-seventh of our economy, about $1 trillion a year, is weather sensitive." The innovative use of weather, water and climate information is increasing our safety and productivity and improving the Nation's competitiveness to enhance our standard of living. For example, the highly accurate long-range predictions issued by our Climate Prediction Center for the 1997-98 El Nino led California to conduct major mitigation efforts that led to a reduction in losses of about $1 billion.
As an NPR-designated "high-impact agency," the National Weather Service leads NOAA's participation in the Natural Disaster Reduction Initiative (NDRI), a program that seeks to reduce the costs of natural disasters to society and the U.S. economy by improving the quality and utility of environmental forecasts and services. Following are examples of how we support this program:
- Improved Hydrologic Services: Flood damages average about $4.5 billion a year and more than 10 million U.S. households are located in high risk flood areas. This year, the NWS began implementing a national program, called Advanced Hyrdrologic Prediction Services (AHPS), that will improve river forecasts. AHPS provides emergency and water managers with additional time to prepare for floods and droughts with better information and improved accuracy reducing the economic impact of floods on communities. AHPS provides new forecast products depicting the magnitude and probability of occurrence for river conditions from days to several months in the future. Because improved services upstream can yield safety and economic benefits downstream, this year we began implementing AHPS on tributaries of the upper Mississippi, Ohio, and Red River of the North river basins (portions of West Virginia, Kentucky, Pennsylvania, Michigan, Iowa, Ohio, Illinois, Minnesota, North Dakota and South Dakota this year). National implementation of AHPS promises to save lives and benefit the National economy by $600 million each year through fewer flood losses and improved water resource management and will extend current short term river forecasts out to weeks and months.
- Improved Aviation Services: Weather delays within the National Airspace System (NAS) approach nearly $2.5 billion annually. A Massachusetts Institute of Technology study for O'Hare Field in Chicago, found that a 30 minute lead-time for identifying cloud ceiling or visibility events could minimize the number of weather delays by 20 to 35 percent. Nationally, this could save between $500 million to $875 million annually. To meet this need, we developed a new Collaborative Convective Forecast Product (CCFP) to enhance air traffic flow on an expedited basis as requested by the Federal Aviation Administration and air carriers. On April 1, 2000, our Aviation Weather Center began producing the CCFP as an operational product. Initially, AWC will produce the CCFP during the thunderstorm season (March through October). As a result, Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) Air Traffic Control System Command Center (ATCSCC) and air carriers can now make strategic routing and dispatch decisions based, in part, on these forecasts. These forecast products will continually be improved in the future.
- Improving our Weather Technology: When killer tornados tore through Oklahoma and Kansas in May 1999, our Norman, Oklahoma, weather forecast office issued warnings up to 30 minutes in advance of some of the twisters. The office credits the Advanced Weather Interactive Processing System (AWIPS), a powerful data presentation system, for helping the team quickly and accurately assess the weather conditions and get out warnings; the media called our NEXRAD doppler radar a "hero." Together, with the private sector and the media who helped disseminate our warnings we saved perhaps 600 lives and countless dollars.
- America invested $4.5 billion to modernize its National Weather Service. Leveraging this technology can maximize the investment:
- Improving NEXRAD Products: This year, the NWS begins full-scale development of new NEXRAD products that will better detect tornado, severe thunderstorm and flash flood conditions. As a result, improved forecasting and lower maintenance costs will save the nation millions of dollars.
- Sustaining AWIPS operations and maintenance: AWIPS workstations enable forecasters to synthesize and analyze weather/environmental data from multiple sources which results in more accurate and timely forecasts of weather events, saving lives and money.
- Replacing the Radiosonde Observing System: For more than 50 years, twice a day, every day, from 102 locations in the United States, the National Weather Service launches weather balloons, carrying instrument packages called radiosondes. The network launches approximately 75,000 to 80,000 radiosondes annually. These balloon-borne expendable devices report temperature, humidity, pressure and winds from the earth's surface up through an altitude of about 95,000 feet or 30,000 meters, and serve as the basis for most weather predictions. More than 90 percent of the system parts are now obsolete. We awarded contracts this year to demonstrate new system components and a prototype radiosonde for which uses the Global Positional System to improve data accuracy.
- Improving the National Network of Weather and Flood Warning and Forecast Services: Recognizing the need for two additional weather forecast offices, we began constructing facilities in Caribou, Maine, and Key West, Fla., this year. Operating 24-hours a day, 7 days a week, these offices will provide improved critical forecasts and warnings that will help citizens be safe and better prepare against the economic impacts of severe weather. These two offices bring the total number of weather forecast offices in our national network of coverage to 121.
Goal: NWS-02 Double the average lead time for severe weather events and achieve a 30 percent increase in pin-pointing landfall of hurricanes.
Our goal is to deliver a credible, timely and relevant suite of weather, water and climate products and services which meet our customer's needs. We are upgrading our products and services to meet these goals. When seconds count, additional warning lead times can mean the difference between life and death. There's still work to do but our average lead times for severe weather are improving significantly. For example:
- Tornado Warnings: Today's average lead time of 11 minutes for tornado warnings is nearly triple the three minute lead time of 1977. Our goal for 2005 is to provide American's with a 15 minute average lead time.
- Flash Flood Warnings: Our advancements in flash flood warning lead time is impressive. Today's average lead time of 51 minutes compares with eight minutes in 1987. Our goal for 2005 is 65 minutes.
In addition to improving lead times, our customers want more specific severe weather watches. During this year's spring and summer seasons, we issued a test product, "Watch by County", along with our operational watches, to better define and update watch areas. We are soliciting customer feedback on the utility of this test product.
Hurricanes pose a huge threat to the nation both in potential loss of life and economic devastation. The National Weather Service provides information that is the country's first line of defense against these storms. Last year, for the first time, we issued an outlook for the hurricane season -- and it verified well. For the 2000 North Atlantic Hurricane Season we also are forecasting an above-average number of storms. An average season brings 10 tropical storms and six hurricanes of which two are classified as intense.
We owe it to the public, to the emergency managers and decision makers, to continue improving our hurricane forecasts. Twenty-four hour track forecast error 30 years ago was 140 miles; this has been reduced to 100 miles with a goal of 80 miles by 2005. By 2005, the NWS also plans to increase hurricane warning lead time from 19 (current) to over 24 hours, and improve hurricane intensity (wind speed) forecasts by 20%.
Goal: NWS-03 Provide improved and timely public access to weather information ranging from current weather events to long range seasonal and inter-annual flood and weather forecasts.
The National Weather Service must do more than simply produce better products and services. Critical information must to get to the people who need it and get there in a form they can use. For potentially life-saving warnings, NOAA Weather Radio, the media, and even paging services remain the best sources for communicating short-fuse warning situations. For less time-critical forecasts and weather information, the internet is a key means for delivery:
- NOAA Weather Radio (NWR) - The Voice of the National Weather Service:
- Network Expansion: 160 new NOAA Weather Radio stations have been added since beginning an expansion program in 1994. 555 stations now comprise the NWR network. We expect to install 40 new stations by the end of FY 2000 and at least 30 new stations next year. We have identified 240 new sites that will allow us to reach the goal of 95 percent population coverage in each state, depending on funding availability.
- NWR Public Information: In partnership with the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) and the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) we published Saving Lives With An All-Hazard Warning Network. This publication describes NWR, promotes its value as a potential life saver, and recommends steps necessary to make NWR more viable as the National warning network. This year we produced two new NWR videos for the public, including a public service announcement with NASCAR race driver Darrell Waltrip to raise public awareness and promote the purchase of NWR receivers.
- NWR New Formats and Uses: We need to get information to people in a form they can use. We have begun research to apply new telecommunications technologies to include text broadcasts on NWR that may provide access to the hearing impaired. In February 2000, we completed implementing Spanish language broadcast capability into the automated NWR programming system. Additionally, transmitters serving a significant Hispanic population may provide automated generic Spanish translations of emergency weather and natural hazard messages for the Emergency Alert System (EAS).
- NWR Concatenated Voice: The NWS is evaluating a prototype system, which uses concatenated human voice, for the broadcast of warnings and short-fused watches. Concatenation uses human voice recorded in phrases and words, pieced together by a computer to match input text. This technology will be tested at two NWS offices by mid-calendar year 2000.
- Consolidated River Data on the Internet: Daily river forecasts and flood stage information from the nation's largest river basins are now available on a single Internet site. The Weather Service's new River Watch home page is a service even more crucial as various parts of the nation are gripped by drought. This new "one stop" Web site provides almost instant access to river data and ice conditions within the Illinois, Mississippi, Missouri, and Ohio River Basins. The new site combines river information from more than a dozen weather service offices and makes them available to anyone with access to the Internet. The internet address is: http://www.riverwatch.noaa.gov/
- Open Dissemination of Radar Data on the Internet: After the expiration of the NEXRAD Information Dissemination Service agreement this year, we will provide real time access to the full range of radar data products through the Internet. Our goal is to do this without disrupting any of the existing dissemination paths during the transition in order to make sure this is a win-win for everyone - for the NWS, for our customers and partners, for the vendors, private weather companies and their customers, and ultimately for the taxpayers.
- Emergency Managers Weather Information Network (EMWIN): One example of how we are focusing efforts on modern wireless web technologies and designs is the EMWIN system. This satellite based information delivery system delivers critical weather information to emergency managers at an affordable price.
- StormReady: This new NWS initiative, that originated in Oklahoma, promises to improve communication and increase weather awareness and preparedness in communities across the country. StormReady prepares communities to respond to the threat of severe weather and provides detailed and clear recommendations which communities can use to improve their public awareness programs. It also gives the community recognition for their preparedness accomplishments. Local National Weather Service forecast offices work with communities to complete an application and review process. To be officially StormReady, a community must:
- Establish a 24-hour warning point and emergency operations center;
- Have more than one way to receive severe weather forecasts and warnings and to alert the public;
- Create a system that monitors local weather conditions;
- Promote the importance of public readiness through community seminars; and
- Develop a formal hazardous weather plan, which includes training severe weather spotters and holding emergency exercises.
We currently have 22 StormReady communities located in 10 states with an additional 25 in the application process. Our goal is to identify at least 20 StormReady communities annually through 2005.
- New Climate Products: Since last year, the NWS has issued several new climate products that are available on the web:
- U.S. Drought Monitor: During last summer's severe drought in the mid-Atlantic we implemented a new Drought Monitor, developed by NOAA and its federal partners. This product summarizes the extent and intensity of droughts nationwide and expected changes in intensity over the next two weeks. For more information visit: U.S. Drought Monitor.
- Threats Assessment: Last summer we launched this tool to identify potential for extreme weather events up to two weeks in advance. These maps can be found at: U.S. Threats Assessment.
- Excessive Heat Product: When parts of the country experienced a deadly heatwave last summer, our customers asked for a heat wave outlook. This summer we began issuing a new excessive heat product that maps parts of the country where excessive heat may occur up to 14 days in advance. These maps are located at: Excessive Heat Outlooks.
Goal: NWS-04 Reduce the cost to the private sector of the collection and dissemination of near real-time weather data and information through partnership with the academic community and private sector.
Government agencies, private companies, academia, the media, emergency managers and the public all rely on National Weather Service data, products and services. Our data and products form a national information data base and infrastructure.
By collecting and distributing data and information through more efficient high speed communications lines and NOAAPORT, which is a satellite broadcast network, we are reducing costs. For the cost of essential equipment to down link the information, the public, universities, and industry now have access to nearly all data collected by the National Weather Service free of charge.
Goal: NWS-05 Streamline weather service activities which will result in a more highly trained staff, increased productivity, reduced management overhead, and reduction of the number of field offices from over 300 to 121.
Currently, 92 percent of our weather offices scheduled to close have already closed (184 of 200). Decisions on 10 additional offices are scheduled for this year. The remaining offices require actions over the next several years before decisions can be made.
NPR Federal Employee Survey: NOAA Results
Page Author : Jim Valdez, National Weather Service
Last Modified : Thursday, December 21, 2000
URL : http://www.nws.noaa.gov/npr5.html
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