MDL (TDL), 2000 

phtograph of MDL team in 2000
Skip namesFront row, left to right: Gregory McFadden, Peter Wu, Stephan B. Smith, Jack C. Hayes, Jack Kelly, Harry R. Glahn, David P. Ruth, J. Paul Dallavalle, Wilson A. Shaffer, Johanna J. Robinson, Douglas Murphy, Sean P. Webb. Second row: Shucai Guan, Rici Yu, Jingtao Deng, Brenda S. Smith, Karen Yip, Tom Filiaggi, David H. Kitzmiller, Ronla K. Meiggs, Mark S. Antolik, Rebecca L. Allen, Mary C. Erickson, James C. Su, Valery J. Dagostaro, Judy E. Ghirardelli, Gary F. Battel, Suzanne Forgach, Timothy R. Kempisty. Third row: Wei Yan, Timothy R. Boyer, Bailing Li, Patrick V. Laybe, Adrianne L. Hart, David A. Holt, Bryan Burke, David E. Rudack, Luis A. Gyles, Sarita Whitehead, Matthew Sardi, Jye Chen, Kevin L. Carroll. Fourth row: Brian D. Papa, Qinglu Lin, Pat Astill, James F. Wantz, Mark G. Oberfield, Matthew Peroutka, Kenneth S. Sperow, Robert Miller, Jerome P. Charba, Mark A. Shirley, Chung-Sheng Wu, Edward J. Mandel, Robert K. Morris, Salvatore V. Romano, Arthur A. Taylor, William C. Mattison, Michael E. Churma. Back row: Joel T. Moeller, Mark J. Stram, Mitchell Weiss.

Unit Citation Award: “For exceptional sustained performance in support of implementing the Advanced Weather Interactive Processing System and for providing significant and improved products to field forecasters, 1997-2000.” 


MDL History

Timeline of MDL Products

MDL timeline


The Techniques Development Laboratory (TDL) was formed in 1964 as part of the Weather Bureau under the Department of Commerce (DOC). Through a series of reorganizations, TDL was renamed the Meteorological Development Laboratory in 2001 and placed under the Office of Science and Technology of the National Weather Service (NWS) under the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA).

There have been three directors of TDL/MDL since its inception: Dr. William H. Klein (1965-1975), Dr. Harry R. Glahn (1976-2012) who is currently still serving as scientist emeritus) and Dr. Mike Farrar (2012-2016).  David Ruth is currently Acting Director.


Statistical Techniques

Techniques Development Laboratory, 1979

photograph of TDL team in 1979
Skip namesFront row (seated), left to right: Dr. Bonner, Dr. Harry R. Glahn (holding plaque), Dr. William H. Klein. Second row (seated): Dr. Paul Long Jr., Dr. Mikhail A. Alaka, David J. Vercelli, Edward A. Zurndorfer, Nancy J. Harrison, Evelyn L. Boston. Third row (standing): John S. Jensenius Jr., Herman P. Perrotti, Denis J. Sakelaris, Mercedes N. Bakon, Melvina McDonald, Dr. Celso S. Barrientos. Fourth row: Robert J. Bermowitz, John E. Janowiak, Steven A. Gardner, Robert C. Elvander, Darrel J. Foat, William S. Richardson, Lawrence D. Burroughs, Mary B. Battle, Dr. Chester P. Jelesnianski, Peggy A. Gardner, Dr. Dale A. Lowry, Dr. Wilson A. Shaffer, Mary M. Heffernan. Last row: David A. Andrews, J. Paul Dallavalle (partly hidden), Timothy L. Chambers, Dr. Robert G. Miller, Karl F. Hebenstreit, Dr. Jerome P. Charba, N. Arthur Pore (partially hidden), James E. Kemper, Dr. Jye Chen, Ronald M. Reap, Eugene Keener. (Not pictured: William H. Akens, Thomas D. Bethem, Joseph R. Bocchieri, Anna E. Booth, Gary M. Carter, Richard L. Crisci, Donald S. Foster, David B. Gilhousen, Joseph G. Gofus, William C. Herrman, Kurt W. Hess, George W. Hollenbaugh, Frederick Marshall, Robert E. Saffle, Rosalie Young. )

Unit Citation Award:  “In recognition of outstanding individual and collective contributions in furthering NOAA’s mission.” 


Early MDL efforts focused on the development of techniques that had the potential of being implemented at the National Meteorological Center, since renamed NCEP. Among the earliest MDL products was Model Output Statistics (MOS) guidance, the subject of Bob Glahn and Dale Lowry's much-referenced 1972 article entitled "The Use of Model Output Statistics in Objective Weather Forecasting". The first operational product in 1969 was a 3-element Primitive Equation (PE) model-based message for 79 locations. The current products are for more than 20 elements and more than 11,000 sites across the U.S. and its territories. Recent additions to the MOS system include gridded guidance and the inclusion of ensemble model output.


MDL has applied MOS techniques to meet evolving forecast needs. This includes the system currently known as the Localized Aviation MOS Program (LAMP), which provides detailed short-range statistical weather forecasts and objective analysis of surface conditions. LAMP was designed in the early 1980s to run a MOS-like system locally by forecasters to provide short-term guidance of sensible weather for public and aviation forecasting. As the NWS modernized its operations in the mid-1990s with the development of the Advanced Weather Interactive Processing System (AWIPS), LAMP was implemented to run in AWIPS. By the mid-2000s, LAMP was redesigned again to run centrally on the NCEP supercomputing system with the official products disseminated centrally from NCEP. Today, there is gridded LAMP guidance available in support of NWS production of digital aviation products in addition to traditional station-based guidance.


Development of Forecast Tools and Fostering Collaboration

Storm Surge Models

MDL also has a long-standing role in forecaster decision support. MDL has provided guidance forecasts for storm surges for over three decades, with the current NWS storm surge model, Sea, Lake, and Overland Surges from Hurricanes (SLOSH), evolved from earlier models developed at MDL in the late 1960s and early 1970s. To predict the surge accompanying an extratropical storm, MDL developed the Extra-Tropical Storm Surge (ETSS) model. This variation of the SLOSH model predicts storm surge flooding along U.S. coastlines, but does not predict the extent of overland flooding. In recent years, MDL has also developed Probabilistic Storm Surge (P-Surge) to predict the likelihood of various storm surge heights.

p surge graphic

P-Surge output showing chance >5 ft storm surge for Hurricane Katrina from Avdisory 23 (~24 hrs before landfall)

screen capture of slosh

SLOSH model theoretical Cat.5 hurricane storm surge heights above ground for New Orleans

Digital Forecast Guidance Tools

Since the 1980s, MDL has developed and evaluated techniques which enable the forecaster to interactively prepare digital forecasts of weather elements. Early efforts focused on the Interactive Computer Worded Forecast (ICWF) system, which allowed NWS forecasters to revise statistical guidance by adjusting values of forecast values displayed on an area map. The resulting digital forecasts were then used to produce products in several formats. In the mid-1990s, the Interactive Forecast Preparation System (IFPS) was implemented at Weather Forecast Offices (WFO). IFPS was developed by MDL and transitioned forecasters from manually typing hundreds of text forecasts to using graphical forecast editing techniques to more efficient, information-rich digital and graphical weather forecast products.These advancements have culminated in the National Digital Forecast Database (NDFD) and complementary National Digital Guidance Database (NDGD). NDFD contains digital forecasts from WFOs working in collaboration with NCEP consistent with official NWS forecast products; NDGD contains digital forecasts, guidance, and observations from a variety of sources that relate to and supplement the NDFD. MDL routinely provides verification of NDFD in comparison with guidance. Long-term verifications show that while the skill of forecasts has improved with improvement in the dynamical models and MOS, the forecaster continues to add value, particularly at shorter-range projections.

D2D screen capture

Thunderstorm image and options from SCAN suite of software on D2D

Integrating Research into Operations

MDL has also played a key role in transitioning innovative research into NWS operations. For example, in the late 1990s MDL collaborated with the National Severe Storms Laboratory (NSSL) and WFOs to develop both the System for Convection Analysis and Nowcasting (SCAN) and Flash Flood Monitoring and Prediction (FFMP) system. SCAN and FFMP were developed to provide an integrated suite of applications in AWIPS that generated short-term probabilistic forecast and warning guidance for severe weather and flash floods. In another partnership with the National Center for Atmospheric Research (NCAR) and NWS WFOs, MDL adapted NCAR's Thunderstorm Autonowcast (ANC) system for AWIPS. The ANC produces 0-1 hour thunderstorm nowcasting predictor fields derived from observation-based feature detections, numerical weather prediction model output, and human forecaster input. MDL's key role in transitioning innovative research into NWS operations is today manifested in the Virtual Lab (VLab), a service and IT framework that enables NOAA employees and their partners to share ideas, collaborate, engage in software development, and conduct applied research.

The interpretive model guidance, digital forecast services, and decision support applications provided by MDL meet the need of allowing NWS forecasters to work together to make fine-resolution, up-to-date forecasts available to the nation.

MDL September 2015 

photograph of MDL team in Sept 2015