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RTVS Background:

Over the past several years, the FAA’s Aviation Weather Research Program (AWRP) has funded the NOAA Earth System Research Laboratory’s Global Systems Division (ESRL/GSD) (formerly Forecast Systems Laboratory) and its collaborators to evaluate experimental meteorological forecast and diagnostic products for use in operations, and to develop the Real-Time Verification System (RTVS). This system, currently operated at GSD, provides statistics and verification displays in near real-time for operational aviation forecast products. It also generates statistics supporting comparisons between similar forecasts (e.g., convective forecast products) which allows study of the performance of the products for use in air traffic operational planning. RTVS makes all of this real-time and historical information available to operational and research communities through the Internet.

Fig. 1. Example of RTVS verification of the Collaborative Convective Forecast Product (CCFP), a human-generated forecast issued by the NWS/AWC. This is just one of many forecast and analysis products evaluated by RTVS.

1. Long-term Research Objectives and Specific Plans to Achieve Them:

The CIRA team will continue to collaborate with ESRL/GSD’s Aviation Branch in the following areas, which are geared primarily to supporting NextGen, the Nation’s next generation air traffic management system.

--Research to Operation (RTO) Evaluations: Quality assessments for turbulence, ceiling and visibility, convective, volcanic ash, and flight level winds will be the primary focus. Task areas will include: developing the variable-specific quality assessment concepts and techniques and implementing those techniques within Real-Time Verification System (RTVS) and NEVS.

--Verification in NextGen Operations: Development of a sophisticated automated verification capability using the Network-Enabled Verification Service (NEVS) for selecting convective weather information for the SAS that is based on critical aviation operational decisions and verification of the SAS forecasts. This work will include R&D in two specific areas and focus mainly on convective weather:
1) Verification concept development: effectively integrating verification data with non-meteorological operational aviation weather decision criteria so that forecast evaluations and verification information directly reflect weather concerns of FAA operations, new evaluation techniques and metrics for probabilistic forecasts, sector-based and high impact weather-event scoring, and graphical verification information bringing together verification metrics and operational traffic impact information such as output from the Weather Impact Traffic Index (WITI), Airspace Flow Programs (AFP), ground stops and ground delay information. Extend quality assessment concepts developed for convection and adapt to forecasts of turbulence.
2) Engineering concept development: data integration concepts using non-meteorological and meteorological data through a relational database management system, utilization of OGC-specific data formats, network-enabled data access, storage, and distribution concepts, and effective web-based access to quality assessment and forecast skill information.

--Transition of the Real-Time Verification System to the NWS Telecommunications Operations Center (TOC).

2. Research Accomplishments/Highlights:

a) Formal Assessment of the Forecast Icing Potential Product

In support of the operational transition of the Forecast Icing Potential (FIP) product, which was developed by the FAA’s Icing Research Team, CIRA researchers provided a formal assessment to the Aviation Weather Technology Transfer (AWTT) Technical Review Committee (TRC).

Attributes of the forecast that were evaluated include icing probability, icing severity, and supercooled large drops (SLD). The FAA has designated that FIP, when certified for operational use, will be used as a supplemental product, which requires it to be used for flight planning purposes only in conjunction with the operational icing Airmen’s Meteorological Information (AIRMET) issuances.
The main objective of the report was to understand the value of FIP as a supplement to the icing AIRMET. Agreement between the two forecasts was measured. Then, the skill of the supplemental product was examined in two ways: constraining the grid to within the boundaries of AIRMET polygons and constraining the grid to outside of the boundaries of the polygons. The performance of FIP was also assessed during the summer season, a time when icing AIRMET issuances substantially decrease. Finally, FIP was considered as an independent product and a reasonable attempt was made to directly compare its skill with that of the icing AIRMET.
Findings indicated that FIP showed significant value as a supplement to the AIRMET, which, qualitatively, can be seen in Fig. 2. Primarily basing their decision on the study, the TRC formally approved the use of FIP in FAA operations.

Fig. 2. A case study of the FIP icing severity (blue shading) overlaid with AIRMET boundary (stippled yellow at different altitudes from 1 January 2008 (3-h lead time valid at 2100UTC). Top left, 4000 ft AGL; top right, 5000 ft AGL; middle left, 8000 ft AGL; middle right, 10000ft AGL; bottom left, 15000ft AGL; bottom right, 20000ft AGL.

b) Convective Season (2007) Forecast Evaluation

The goal of the scientific evaluation was to assess the performance of several convective forecasts with respect to their application to operational air traffic flow planning. Five forecasts, including CCFP Preliminary and Final, RUC Convective Probability Forecast (RCPF), RUC Reflectivity, and the NAM Reflectivity were evaluated using the National Convective Weather Diagnostic (NCWD) product from 11 June – 31 August 2007. This Executive Summary highlights the main aspects of the scientific evaluation, but further detail and analyses are summarized in a comprehensive report.

The main verification approach applied in the study was used to inter-compare the forecast quality of the five products at strategic flight planning time periods and within impacted sectors (Fig. 3). This unique measure of forecast quality was linked directly to the application of the convective forecasts to the operational flight planning process.
Relevant results from the study indicated:
1) Nearly identical forecast performance from the CCFP Preliminary and the CCFP Final.
2) The CCFP and RCPF performed similarly for nearly all time periods, except at the 2-h outlook period where CCFP performed slightly better.
3) At early valid times and for shorter outlook periods, CCFP performed slightly better than RCPF.
4) At later valid times and longer output periods (i.e., when convective weather has the potential to severely impact air traffic), the RCPF performed as well as the CCFP.

5) Analysis of the top ten high impact air traffic days indicated that the performance of the RCPF at the 8-h outlook period for the afternoon shows some promise for planning purposes.

6) On high coverage, high impact days, neither CCFP nor RCPF performed significantly different from the other.
7) The CCFP, for every valid time of interest, better identified the sectors that were impacted by convection than did the RCPF.
8) The reflectivity products (NAM and RUC) showed virtually no skill at forecasting hazardous convection, but did provide some guidance at long lead periods for areas of concern.

9) The probabilistic aspects of CCFP and the RCPF exhibited low reliability.

Recommendations that were identified from the results include:

--Meteorologically, the forecast skill of the CCFP Final and Preliminary perform similarly, thus we recommend that the meteorological collaboration and its relationship to the planning process be further evaluated before possible elimination.

--In the near term, RCPF should be used as input to the CCFP generation process.

--In the longer term, we recommend adoption of a gridded probabilistic forecast as meteorological input to the traffic planning process. Since the radar reflectivity products have in some cases alerted planners to areas of hazardous weather 8-24 hrs in advance, we recommend further resources be devoted to the development of these products to improve their ability to better forecast convective intensity and structure. This may also benefit other automated convective forecasts.

Fig. 3. Sector-based verification of the 2-h CCFP Final forecast from 8 June 2007 issued at 1500 UTC, with NCWD observations shown as well. Impacted sectors are color-coded to depict the verification results.

c) Development of a Lead Time Metric for the Terminal Aerodrome Forecast (TAF)

In order to minimize costly weather-related delays, aviation planners require accurate, precise, and timely information regarding hazardous conditions (Instrument Flight Rules) in terminal areas. Performance metrics for the Terminal Aerodrome Forecast (TAF), a critical product for air traffic planning, currently include Probability of Detection (POD) and False Alarm Ratio (FAR), which provide measures of accuracy and precision. In response to the need for a performance measure related to the timeliness of terminal forecasts, CIRA researchers continued to collaborate with NOAA to develop a lead-time metric for the ceiling and visibility attribute of the Terminal Aerodrome Forecast (TAF). In addition, diagnostic web-based tools were developed and made available to operational forecasters for evaluation (Fig. 4).

Fig. 4. Output from the diagnostic event viewer tool, depicting observed IFR events (green) overlaid by the forecast IFR event (red) for the TAF issued at Charleston, WV.

d) Development of a Verification Framework for the NextGen

The CIRA team has collaborated with the RTVS group to create and demonstrate a verification framework to support processing of meteorological quality information within NextGen. Critical to the effort is the ability to effectively integrate information from the air traffic planning process. CIRA researchers have successfully implemented a proof-of-concept to evaluate and demonstrate the new ideas. This approach proved valuable to the operational community; as a result, work continues on enhancing the capability and integrating the system into the NextGen development.

3. Comparison of Objectives Vs Actual Accomplishments for the Report Period:

--Objective: Analysis and creation of an overall system architecture that will support RTVS processing needs

Status: In Progress. CIRA researchers have created a proof-of-concept demonstrating the feasibility of the new framework. Work continues to enhance the capability and integrate the system into the NextGen development.

--Objective: Research and support for an assessment of the FAA's National Ceiling and Visibility (NCV) product; and research and support for an assessment of the FAA's Graphical Turbulence Guidance (GTG3) product

Status: On hold. The sponsor of this work, the FAA’s AWRP, has postponed the evaluation of the products mentioned in the objective. Work will resume when the FAA initiates the research.

--Objective: Research of strategies for data management of geophysical observations, diagnostics and forecast products  

Status: In Progress. The CIRA team continues to study concepts, such as resampling approaches in statistical significance testing, in an attempt to uncover approaches that would better support the engineering needs of the NextGen verification system.
--Objective: Analysis and creation of a lead-time metric for the NWS's Terminal Aerodrome Forecast (TAF)
Status: In Progress. CIRA researchers have guided the development of a new lead-time metric. With significant input from the sponsors and operational forecasters, the technique has been substantially refined. A website now makes evaluation by the field users feasible. Also, diagnostic tools, most importantly the event viewer, have been made available.
--Objective: Research of operationally relevant verification measures that incorporate ASD data

Status: In progress. As part of the study of convective forecast performance during the 2007 season, the CIRA team utilized an implementation of the Weather Impacted Traffic Index (WITI) to provide better assessment information to the operational community. Work continues to better incorporate enroute impact as well as impact of weather on terminal efficiency.

--Objective: Support for operational adaptation of RTVS for deployment
Status: In progress. The CIRA team has utilized an operationally available data interface for RTVS that will enable the transfer of technology to NWS operations in the near future.
4. Leveraging/Payoff:

5. Research Linkages/Partnerships/Collaborators:

CIRA researchers in the RTVS group collaborated and/or partnered with the following organizations during the 2007-2008 fiscal year:

--Federal Aviation Administration (FAA)

--National Weather Service (NWS)

--National Center for Atmospheric Research (NCAR)

--National Center for Environmental Prediction (NCEP)

--Boeing, Phantom Works (Research and Development)

--Cooperative Institute for Research in the Environmental Sciences (CIRES)

6. Awards/Honors:
7. Outreach:
8. Publications:
III. Research Collaborations with the GSD Information & Technology Services
Project Title: Data Systems Group (DSG) Research Activities
Principal Researcher: Christopher MacDermaid

CIRA Team Members: Leslie Ewy, Paul Hamer, Patrick Hildreth, BobLipschutz, Glen Pankow, Richard Ryan, Amenda Stanley, and Jennifer Valdez

NOAA Project Goals/Programs: (1) Weather and Water—Serve society’s needs for weather and water information / Local forecasts and warnings, Air quality, Environmental modeling; (2) Commerce and Transportation—Support the Nation’s commerce with information for safe, efficient, and environmentally sound transportation/Aviation weather

Key Words: Data Acquisition, Data Decoding, Data formats, Observations, Transformation


Cooperative Institute for Research in the Atmosphere (CIRA) researchers in DSG collaborate with the NOAA Earth System Research Laboratory Global Systems Division (ESRL/GSD) scientists and developers to assemble and maintain a state-of-the-art meteorological data center. The results of this work facilitate the ability of fellow scientists to perform advanced research in the areas of numerical weather prediction (NWP), application development, and meteorological analysis and forecasting. Multiple computers operate in a distributed, event-driven environment known as the Object Data System (ODS) to acquire, process, store, and distribute conventional and advanced meteorological data. The services provided by ODS are illustrated in Figure 1. These services include data ingest, data transformation, data distribution, system and data monitoring, data saving, compute services, and on-line storage.

Fig. 1. Central Facility services provided by ODS

1. Long-term Research Objectives and Specific Plans to Achieve Them:

Design and development for new and modified datasets are ongoing activities. Use of ODS applications and methods will expand as legacy translators and product generation methods are replaced by new, more flexible techniques. Object Oriented (OO) software development for point data types will continue.
Design and development will continue toward creating an automated "archive search" system. This will facilitate the retrieval of datasets for use by researchers studying interesting weather events.
Development of new metadata handling techniques is ongoing. This facilitates the use of real-time and archived datasets.
2. Research Accomplishments/Highlights:

DSG's highlights of the past year include:

--Data transformation

--Developed ODS Maritime data decoder to replace legacy software

--Developed a HDF4-to-NetCDF3 conversion application

--Updated GRIB decoding software for edition 2, including developing software for

table discovery and a template refactoring to allow for the introduction of new

templates without the need for additional software development

--Updated RAOB decoder

--Updated METAR decoder

--Updated PIREP decoder

--Updated POES BUFR handling

--Updated ACARS decoder to account for a new formula for en(de)coding

the water vapor mixing ratio

--NEXRAD decoding software packaged for distribution with GSD’s Local Analysis and Prediction System (LAPS) project
--Set up, tested, and debugged a new Facility Data Repository (FDR) server to save all gridded data files to the Mass Store System, and put it into production
--Installed and configured collaborative development applications

--TWiki, an open-source collaborative knowledge management tool. This

allows both the Systems Support Group (SSG) and DSG to edit and track changes

to the FICS documentation

--Bugzilla, an open-source issue tracking system for Central Facility services

--Ruby on Rails, an open-source web framework that will support the development of

new monitoring capabilities
--Developed and put into production a new point data processing system, enabling the re-purposing of the legacy hardware
--Developed software for the real-time generation of KML files to enable GoogleEarth display of global satellite images and LAPS datasets

--Real-Time Verification System (RTVS)

--Started working with the RTVS group on a proof-of-concept tool that will lead to a

new verification framework

--Acquired several new weather data products from Aviation Weather Center (AWC),

National Center for Atmospheric Research (NCAR), and the Air Force Weather

Agency (AFWA)

--Science On a Sphere® (SOS)

--Configured local GOES systems to generate full-disk products for GOES-11 and


--Configured McIDAS image remapping for a global water vapor product from AWC

--Implemented new methods and hardware for distributing SOS data to its many


--Meteorological Assimilation Data Ingest System (MADIS)/ RUC Surface Analysis System (RSAS)

--Participating on the transition team for the transition of MADIS to NWS operations

--Added UrbaNet

--UrbaNet is a surface research network involving NOAA's Air Resources

Laboratory (ARL) and the private sector, which is designed to explore the use of

using integrated commercial and government meteorological data in forecasting

within the complex topology of the urban environment

--MADIS has been established as the mechanism to ingest, integrate, quality

control and distribute the UrbaNet mesonet observations in support of

homeland security, emergency management, dispersion modeling, and general

forecasting applications

--Implemented a method to monitor the Cooperative Agency Profiler Dialer systems

--Added new Mesonet datasets

--Maryland Department of Transportation

--Maine Department of Transportation

--Ft. Collins, Colorado Utilities

--Alaska Mesonet

--New Hampshire Department of Transportation

--White Sands Missile Range

--Colorado Avalanche Information Center

--Bridger Teton National Forest Avalanche Center

--New Jersey Weather and Climate Network

--National Estuarine Research Reserve System

3. Comparison of Objectives Vs Actual Accomplishments for the Report Period:

--Goal: Acquisition of Meteorological Data
Continue acquisition of a large variety and volume of conventional (operational) and advanced (experimental) meteorological observations in real-time. The ingested data, which are used by CIRA and GSD researchers on a wide variety of projects, encompass almost all available meteorological observations along the Front Range of Colorado and much of the available data in the entire United States including data from Canada, Mexico, and many observations from around the world. The richness of this meteorological database is illustrated by such diverse datasets as advanced automated aircraft, wind and temperature profiler, satellite imagery and soundings, Global Positioning System (GPS) moisture, Doppler radar measurements, and hourly surface observations.
Status: This work is in progress.
--Goal: Data Processing
Scientifically analyze and process data into meteorological products in real-time, and make them available to CIRA and GSD researchers and systems developers for current and future research initiatives. The resulting meteorological products cover a broad range of complexity, from simple plots of surface observations to meteorological analysis and model prognoses generated by sophisticated mesoscale computer models.
Status: This work is in progress.
--Goal: ODS Improvements/Upgrades
Design and development for new and modified datasets continue. Use of ODS applications and methods will expand as legacy translators and product generation methods are replaced by the new techniques including OO software development for point data.
Status: This work is in progress.
--Goal: Metadata Handling

Metadata handling techniques for use with all datasets are planned for implementation for real-time data processing. An automated system for acquiring and incorporating metadata is part of this plan. Further work will continue on the interactive interface that allows for easy query and management of the metadata content. Program interfaces will be added to allow for secure, controlled data access. Retrospective data processing and metadata management are slated for incorporation.

Status: This work is in progress.

4. Leveraging/Payoff:

CIRA researchers in DSG collaborate with GSD scientists and developers to assemble and maintain a state-of-the-art meteorological data center. Data acquired, decoded and processed by DSG have been vital to the success of MADIS, RTVS, and GSD's X-window workstation (FX-Net). Some of the NOAA projects using this data center are listed below.
MADIS - MADIS is dedicated to making value-added meteorological observations available from GSD for the purpose of improving weather forecasting, by providing support for data assimilation, NWP, and other hydrometeorological applications.
RTVS - Verification is the key to providing reliable information for improving weather forecasts. As part of GSD's involvement with the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) Aviation Weather Research Program (AWRP), the Forecast Verification Branch develops verification techniques, mainly focusing on aviation weather forecasts and tools that allow forecasters, researchers, developers, and program leaders to generate and display statistical information in near real-time using the RTVS.
Developmental Testbed Center (DTC) - The WRF (Weather Research & Forecasting Model) DTC is a facility where the NWP research and operational communities interact to accelerate testing and evaluation of new models and techniques for research applications and operational implementation, without interfering with current operations.
FX-Net - FX-Net is a meteorological PC workstation that provides access to the basic display capability of an AWIPS workstation via the Internet. The AWIPS workstation user interface is emulated very closely. Bandwidth limitations are addressed by using new data compression techniques along with multithreaded client-side processing and communication.

RUC - RUC is a high-frequency weather forecast and data assimilation system that provides short-range numerical weather guidance for general public forecasting as well as for the special short-term needs of aviation and severe-weather forecasting.

5. Research Linkages/Partnerships/Collaborators, Communication and Networking:
6. Awards/Honors:
Patrick Hildreth - GSD Best Product/Internal Use Web Award for FICS Docs (FIDO)
7. Outreach:
8. Publications:

IV. Research Collaborations with the GSD Forecast Applications Branch

A. Project Title: Local Analysis and Prediction System (LAPS)

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