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Severe Storms in the Southeast; Heavy Mountain Snow in the Northwest

A storm moving through the Southeast will produce severe storms with potential for damaging winds, large hail, and a few tornadoes. Gusty winds ahead of this front will produce elevated fire weather threats in southeastern Florida. A Pacific storm will continue moving inland spreading heavy mountain snow into the Rockies, and a wintry mix into portions of the North/Central Plains. Read More >


NCEP 2019 Quarter 4 Newsletter



2019 Aviation Weather Testbed Summer Experiment

The 2019 Aviation Weather Testbed Summer Experiment took place August 19-23 at the Aviation Weather Center in Kansas City, MO. Participants included developers from the Earth System Research Lab, Meteorological Development Lab, and Environmental Modeling Center. Meteorologists from every NWS region including Alaska and Hawaii, Deutscher Wetterdienst (German weather service), Southwest Airlines, NWS headquarters, the US Air Force 557th Weather Wing, and the FAA’s Aviation Weather Research Program also attended. In addition, the FAA’s Aviation Weather Demonstration and Evaluation Services group provided human factors expertise to collect feedback from pilots.


Participants in the 2019 Aviation Weather Testbed Summer Experiment (photo Kristine Berry)


There were three major themes explored during the week. The first was an evaluation of new features and capabilities in the Graphical Forecasts for Aviation and Helicopter Emergency Medical Services web tools.  The second area of focus for the week was evaluating new cloud layer guidance from numerical model 3D cloud information.  Finally, participants looked at potential extended-range convective guidance products. National air traffic planning is increasingly concerned with potential impacts before they start affecting the National Airspace System, and determining the best method to present this information to all stakeholders is critical.





Climate Prediction Center Hosts First Stakeholder Meeting

The Climate Prediction Center (CPC) hosted its first ever stakeholder meeting on 24-26 September 2019 at the NOAA Center for Weather and Climate Prediction (NCWCP).  Approximately 70 core partner participants (in person and remote) attended from the following organizations: NWS WFO/RFC/ROC, DoD (Air Force, Navy, USSOCOM, USACE), FEMA, State Climatologists, National Association of State Energy Officials, AASC, USDA (OCE, Climate Hubs, RMA), NMFS, NOS, OAR, NESDIS,  NOAA RCC, NOAA RCSD, and WSWC).  The focus of the meeting was:

  • Recent performance of CPC operational products
  • New products to be released for the upcoming year
  • New and improved products currently under development
  • Feedback from stakeholders on recent product performance
  • Feedback from stakeholders on their requirements for improved and new products and the products CPC currently has under development

A series of breakout sessions during the meeting provided the opportunity for attendees to provide feedback on CPC’s current suite of products, including how they’re currently used or challenges in using them in the current format and also provide suggestions for potential future needs related to the suite of current CPC prediction and monitoring products.




Hazards Products Break out session during the CPC Stakeholder Meeting. Pictured around the table starting from the left: Melissa Ou (CPC, Mike Halpert (CPC), Jeff Lupo (NWS/SR), Tom Collow (CPC), Campbell Delahoyde (NASEO), Ray Kiess (USAF), William Frey (USAF), John White (USASOC).



8th NCEP Ensemble User Workshop


The 8th NCEP Ensemble User Workshop was held in the auditorium of NOAA Center for Weather and Climate Prediction (NCWCP) at College Park, Maryland. The workshop took place on August 27-29, 2019 with over 200 participants from national and international institutions including NOAA-NWS, NOAA-OAR, NCAR, US Navy, US Air Force, JTWC, ECMWF, UKMet office, ECCC, CMA, CWB, IITM, various universities, and representatives of the private sector.  There were 51 oral presentations, 5 posters and two panel discussions during the three day meeting.


8th NCEP Ensemble User Workshop model development panel discussion (photo Yuejian Zhu)

The workshop brought together experts, stakeholders and users involved in the generation and use of NCEP ensembles, to review progress on the generation and use of operational products since the last ensemble user workshop that was held in June 2016, and to discuss plans for future efforts and collaborations. The main goal of this workshop was to support NWS in its transition from single value deterministic to probabilistic forecasting. The ultimate goal is to convey forecast uncertainty in a user-relevant form. Collaborative efforts on the national (ESPC) and international (NAEFS, NMME) scale were discussed as well.



Florida’s Governor and U.S. Senators travel to National Hurricane Center for Briefings on Hurricane Dorian


As Hurricane Dorian exited the Caribbean Sea and grew into a major hurricane, Florida was placed inside the NHC 5-day track forecast error cone. With difficult decisions looming, several of Florida's elected officials visited NHC to obtain a briefing and to personally thank each member of the NHC and WFO Miami staff for its work and dedication to the mission.

Florida Governor Ron DeSantis stopped by on August 29th, where he was briefed on Dorian's latest track and potential impacts to the state. After visiting with staff, the Governor provided an outdoor press conference to assure Florida residents that the state was ready.  Several days later on Labor Day, and Hurricane Dorian stalled over the northern Bahamas, U.S. Senator Rick Scott (R- FL) came by in the morning, followed by U.S. Senator Marco Rubio (R- FL) that afternoon.  As with Governor DeSantis, each was briefed on Dorian's track, now expected to turn to the north and parallel the Florida coast, but still be close enough to bring tropical-storm-force and potentially hurricane-force winds and storm surge over parts of the Florida east coast.

U.S. Senator Rick Scott (R-FL) speaks with NHC Director Ken Graham (right) and NOAA Communications Officer Dennis Feltgen regarding Hurricane Dorian on Sept. 2, 2019. Photo credit: NOAA Communications


National Hurricane Center provides updates on Hurricane Dorian via Facebook Live

NHC provided 32 Facebook Live broadcasts via its Facebook page during the 11-day span of the media pool for Hurricane Dorians.  The thrice daily broadcasts delivered six million views, with a single peak live view of 456K during the 11:30 a.m. September 1 broadcast when the 185 mph hurricane was close to landfall in the northern Bahamas.

The videos were hosted by NHC Director Ken Graham, providing the latest updates on the storm using the interactive screen at the hurricane briefing desk. Graham also went to the different areas of NHC for a behind-the-scenes look, including TAFB Marine, CARCAH, Storm Surge, TSB, and the Miami WFO.

Due to the large Spanish-speaking population in Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands, several Spanish-language speakers from NHC TAFB and Miami WFO were brought into the briefings on August 28 and 29 to provide the updates in Spanish. 

Major news agencies, and broadcast and print outlets, monitored the videos for the latest information. The White House sent out a tweet advertising the FB video briefings.


NOAA/NHC Communications Officer Dennis Feltgen shoots a Facebook Live broadcast with NHC Director Ken Graham, August 31, 2019

Photo credit: NOAA Communications



New NOAA-USGS Model Provides Critical Data to Electrical Power Grid Operators


On September 17, NOAA added a new model to its suite of tools designed to help the nation deal with space weather events. The NOAA-U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) Geoelectric Field Model calculates regional electric field levels in the U.S. caused by disturbances in Earth’s magnetic field from geomagnetic storms. The near real-time data indicates the level of space weather impact affecting the electrical power grid to help operators mitigate effects on critical infrastructure.

“We are always looking for ways to improve our forecasts and provide better decision support to our partners,” said Clinton Wallace, director, Space Weather Prediction Center (SWPC), a division of the National Weather Service. “The Geoelectric Field Model will allow us to deliver regional space-weather impact information for the first time. Power grid operators will now be able to quickly understand who in the United States will be affected by space weather, which was a critical missing piece of information.”

In the event of a coronal mass ejection, or CME, directed at Earth, SWPC forecasters will issue a warning using NOAA Space Weather Scales once the CME is detected on satellites stationed at the Lagrange Point One (L1), one million miles from Earth. These measurements at L1 provide key information on how intense the geomagnetic storm is likely to be, but until now, a critical piece of impact information was missing – which parts of the United States will be affected.

The new model delivers graphical maps of the U.S. and gridded data files, updated every minute, that indicate both the strength and direction of the electric fields induced by the geomagnetic storm. Once the geoelectric field is known, the level of geomagnetically induced currents in the power grid can be calculated and the potential impact on the power grid can be assessed.

NOAA-USGS Geoelectric Field Model prototype shows regional geoelectric field levels for a minor geomagnetic storm on Aug. 5, 2019. The new model went operational this week, providing nowcasts of regional geoelectric field levels. The model indicates the level of space weather impact affecting the electrical power grid to help operators mitigate effects on critical infrastructure. Credit: NOAA


The Geoelectric Field Model was developed in close collaboration with the USGS, which provides U.S. magnetometer observations. USGS also transitioned a research magnetic field interpolation model into an operational code that NOAA uses to estimate the magnetic-field time series at locations between the physical observatories. USGS was the principal adviser concerning the solid-Earth conductivity aspect of the calculation.

"This collaboration between NOAA and the USGS has united research projects from the space-science and solid-Earth geophysics communities to provide a practical product of national importance," said Jeffrey Love of the USGS Geomagnetism Program.

NOAA and USGS will upgrade the model in 2020 to incorporate more advanced Earth conductivity models. In addition, NOAA is collaborating with Space Weather Canada to develop a joint U.S. and Canadian version of the Geoelectric field model.



WPC Extends Excessive Rainfall Outlook to 3 Days

As the nation faces increasing extreme rainfall events and increasing vulnerability to flooding, decision makers need sufficient lead time to take mitigating actions. In recognition of this need, and as part of the DOC Agency Priority Goal to mitigate flooding impacts, the Weather Prediction Center endeavored to improve accessibility, accuracy, and lead time of the Excessive Rainfall Outlook. This product provides a national summary of where conditions are favaorable for impactful rainfall, with the risk expressed both probabilistically and categorically (Marginal, Slight, Moderate, and High). “High” risk forecast days have been correlated to events with fatalities and large damages.

Over the past two years, WPC has improved the product display and calibration, tested machine-learning approaches as guidance for the forecasters, added the product to the National Hurricane Center webpage during landfalling tropical cyclones, and executed two educational webinars - reaching over 50 FEMA employees. Through these actions the product now has sufficient skill to allow a change in policy to allow a ‘High’ risk issuance 3 days in advance.

Such lead time is critical. For example, WPC forecast a High Risk of excessive rainfall and warned of catastrophic flooding 3 days in advance of Hurricane Florence. The excessive rainfall outlook was posted prominently on the National Hurricane Center homepage and shared extensively through operational dissemination. This message was repeated and amplified by private sector and media partners. With this amount of lead time, FEMA and States were able to pre-position swift water rescue boats and generators. Catastrophic flooding was observed, and FEMA, State, and local officials were ready to save lives and property.

Check out the latest Excessive Rainfall Outlook at:


NCEP 2019 Quarter 3 Newsletter



Writer Scott Olsen Visits AWC


Scott Olsen (writer for Pilot and Flight Training magazine) visited AWC on May 17. He spent the morning with Senior Meteorologists Amanda Martin & Mitch Sego, Lead Forecaster Jesse Sparks, and Warning Coordination Meteorologist Jonathan Leffler. He is writing an article for Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association titled “Where the Weather Begins: A Look Inside the Aviation Weather Center”.


Senior Aviation Meteorologists Robert Sego (above) and Amanda Martin (below) monitor weather inside the operations at the Aviation Weather Center. (photo courtesy Scott Olsen AOPA)





Climate Prediction Center Provides Enhanced Week-2 Decision Support Services (DSS) During Winter 2018-19

Climate Prediction Center (CPC) Issues 2019 Atlantic Hurricane Season Outlook

The Climate Prediction Center (CPC) issued its 2019 Atlantic hurricane season outlook on May 23th, calling for a 40% chance of a near-normal season, with a 30% chance that season will be above- or below-average. This outlook is produced in collaboration with hurricane experts from the National Hurricane Center (NHC) and the Hurricane Research Division (HRD).  The 2019 Atlantic hurricane season outlook was presented at Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport (DCA) in a national press conference led by Wilbur Ross, Dept. of Commerce Secretary and Dr. Neil Jacobs, Acting NOAA Administrator.  The CPC’s Dr. Gerry Bell (Lead Seasonal Forecaster) was present, addressing scientific questions and doing numerous media interviews.

NOAA predicted a likely range of 9 to 15 named storms (winds of 39 mph or higher), of which 4 to 8 could become hurricanes (winds of 74 mph or higher), including 2 to 4 major hurricanes (category 3, 4 or 5; with winds of 111 mph or higher).  The outlook reflects competing climate factors. The ongoing El Nino is expected to persist and suppress the intensity of the hurricane season. Countering El Nino is the expected combination of warmer-than-average sea-surface temperatures in the tropical Atlantic Ocean and Caribbean Sea, and an enhanced West African monsoon, both of which favor increased hurricane activity. NOAA will update its Atlantic Hurricane Season Outlook in early August.



NOAA's 2019 Atlantic hurricane season outlook issued May 23rd, 2019. This probabilistic outlook reflects the expected seasonal activity for the entire Atlantic basin, which includes the North Atlantic Ocean, Caribbean Sea, and Gulf of Mexico. The outlook is not a seasonal and fall forecast, and it does not predict levels of activity for any particular region.



Environmental Modeling Center Updates the Global Forecast System (GFS) to Version 15.1, which includes the new Finite-Volume Cubed-Sphere (FV3) Dynamic Core


On Wednesday June 12, at 1200 GMT, the Environmental Modeling Center upgraded the GFS V14 to V15.1, which includes the FV3 dynamic core, improved physics parameterizations and data assimilation changes. The FV3 core was developed by the Geophysical Fluid Dynamics Laboratory (GFDL) under NOAA's Office of Atmospheric Research (OAR). This implementation required three years of retrospective experiments, including the real-time parallel, covering the past 3.5 years for a comprehensive evaluation of this major change to the GFS. GFS V15 shows equal or improved forecast skill in many areas, especially for 500-hPa height anomaly correlations, precipitation diurnal cycle and ETS score over the CONUS, surface 2m temperature, stratospheric ozone and water vapor, and hurricane intensity over all basins. Several individual case studies indicate the model occasionally produces excessive snow in the medium forecast range. EMC also noted a persistent cold bias that increases with forecast time. EMC will continue to explore ways to address these issues.

The physics changes to the GFS include switching to the more advanced GFDL microphysics, updating the ozone photochemistry parameterization, a newly added parameterization of middle atmospheric water vapor photochemistry, revising the bare soil evaporation scheme, and modifying the convective parameterization scheme to reduce excessive cloud top cooling. Data assimilation changes include adding Infrared Atmospheric Sounding Interferometer (IASI) moisture channels, Advanced Technology Microwave Sounder (ATMS) all-sky radiances, Megha-Tropiques SAPHIR data, Advanced Scatterometer (ASCAT) data from MetOp-B, and drifting and moored buoy data. The horizontal resolution of the ensemble part of the hybrid data assimilation was increased to 25 km.

EMC and the GFS development team thank all collaborators, centers, and WFOs for their continued feedback and assistance in making this major upgrade to the GFS a success.



A comparison of the new (GFS V15, right panel) and old (GFS V14, left panel) 60-hr forecast of 24-hr Quantitative Precipitation Forecast (QPF) with the NCEP Quantitative Precipitation Estimate (QPE) analysis (center panel).  The GFS V15 shows some reduction in northward QPF bias, potentially associated with ability of the GFS V15 to generate modest surface cold pools from significant convection.

The images in this figure are all taken from WPC's formal evaluation of the GFS V15.




NCEP Central Operations Implements Update to NWS Global Forecast Model – an Update to the Entire NCEP Production Suite

On June 12, 2019, the Implementation and Data Services Branch (IDSB) of NCEP Central Operations (NCO), under the lead of Chief Carissa Klemmer, completed a major implementation of the Global Forecast System (GFS) model, which is the centerpiece of the entire NCEP Production Suite (NPS).  The GFS underwent a major science upgrade, with a new dynamic model core being implemented, but the implementation also had an IT-centric component.  The model was moved to the new Dell components of the WCOSS system, and therefore necessitated updates to over 40 models that are part of the NPS and use the GFS as upstream input.  The work of updating any model, let alone the entire NPS, falls to the team of IDSB Senior Production Analysts (SPAs).  While one SPA, Wojciech Cencek, led the upgrade of the GFS model itself, the entire 6-person SPA team was involved in updating and testing all of the downstream models.  The SPA team lead, Steven Earle, began working the coordination of the upgrade over 12 months ago.  Because of the GFS upgrade, 6 models, including the HWRF and HYSPLIT models required science-related upgrades, while 43 other models needed updates to continue to be integrated with the GFS.

While the SPA team was working the model upgrade, the IDSB Dataflow Team worked alongside them on the data dissemination and customer service aspects of the implementation.  Work began early in understanding the impacts of the product changes and coordinating testing with the AWIPS Program to ensure products from the new version of the GFS would get to the Field on implementation day.  Coordination was done with the NCEP Centers as well.  The Dataflow team worked with the development organization, EMC in this case, to distribute a Service Change Notice to outline all of the changes in the model and notify the NWS customers and partners of changes to expect and modifications they will need to make to prepare for the implementation.  Since the June 12th implementation day, the Dataflow team has received 82 customer inquiries about the changes due to the implementation.  This is equivalent to the total amount of model-related inquiries that they receive for all the models for the rest of the year combined, and they’ve received that volume in only 3 weeks.

After more than 6 months of work, the GFS implementation on June 12th went smoothly.  The old GFS was moved into the background, while the new GFS version 15 and the entire updated NPS were executed without any interruption.  This was due to the hard work of IDSB in the months, weeks and days leading up to June 12th.

Image showing integration of the GFS model with other models in the NCEP Production Suite.  The GFS model is in the center of the figure.  Items shown in red are modeling systems whose data is used as input in the GFS.  Items shown in green represent all of the modeling systems downstream of the GFS that use the model as input.



National Hurricane Center Hosts its 20th WMO Workshop

The National Hurricane Center was the site of the WMO RA-IV Workshop on Hurricane Forecasting and Warning.  Now in its 20th year, this intensive two week course was attended by 24 meteorologists representing 19 countries worldwide – most of whom NHC will be working with during the hurricane season in coordinating tropical cyclone forecasts, and watches/warnings. The topics included hurricane research, aircraft observation analysis, track and intensity forecasting, storm surge, social media and media training.  The training and interactions during the workshop will certainly enhance this coordination between NHC and the RA-IV countries.  

NHC Director Ken Graham and Senior Hurricane Specialist Dr. Richard Pasch welcome the 24 attendees to the WMO RA-IV Workshop on April 29, 2019.

Photo credit: Dennis Feltgen, NOAA/NHC Communications


U.S. East Coast Hurricane Awareness Tour Moves Inland

The 2019 Hurricane Awareness Tour (HAT) typically stops at sites along the coastline but year’s trek was different. The USAF WC-130J Hurricane Hunter and the NOAA WD-P3 aircraft went inland to Harrisburg, Pa.; Roanoke, Va.; and Charlotte, N. Car., to help raise awareness of the inland impacts of tropical cyclones, particularly flooding due to heavy rainfall.  The two U.S. coastal cities visited were Quonset, R.I., and Brunswick, Ga.

Approximately 8000 VIPS, media, members of the public and school children visited the sites, toured the aircraft and met the crews. More than 270 media interviews were conducted with NHC, NWS, AOC and USAF personnel during the five day span of the tour. A live school webinar, administered thru the University of Rhode Island and aimed at the New England states, took place at the Quonset site with 600 fourth thru sixth grade classes registered. Another live webinar was done at the Charlotte site with more than 14,000 fourth through sixth grade classes registered. The HAT coincided with National Hurricane Preparedness Week, May 5 to 11.


School children are excited to visit the NOAA WD-P3 Orion aircraft during its stop in Harrisburg, Pa. on May 7, 2019.  Photo credit: Dennis Feltgen, NOAA/NHC Communications


National Hurricane Center Media Day Kicks Off the Hurricane Season

The annual “hurricane season media day" was held at the National Hurricane Center on May 31. Four dozen television and radio media interviews, in both English and Spanish were provided to 26 different media outlets during the six hour event. Highlighting the day was a news conference that featured DOC Deputy Secretary Karen Dunn Kelly, Acting NOAA Administrator Dr. Neil Jacobs, FEMA Deputy Secretary for Resilience Dr. Dan Kaniewski and NHC Director Ken Graham.  The message was a simple but important one - know your hurricane risk whether you're on the coast or inland.  Nearly 90 percent of the fatalities in tropical cyclones are related to water, including storm surge and inland flooding.  

NHC Director Ken Graham speaks with Joshua Replogle of the Associated Press while Dr. Neil Jacobs does the same with meteorologist Chris Martinez of W. Palm Beach ABC affiliate WPBF-TV25 regarding the start of the 2019 hurricane season.  May 31, 2019.  Photo credit: Dennis Feltgen, NOAA/NHC Communications


Vice President Pence visits the National Hurricane Center

On June 25th, the staff of the National Hurricane Center and NWS WFO Miami were honored to be visited by U.S. Vice President Mike Pence. Mr. Pence was in the Miami area for another engagement and made it a point of stopping by the facility.  His one hour visit included a quick tour of the Hurricane Specialist Unit Operations Area where he was briefed on hurricane forecasting, storm surge forecasting and the marine weather program. During the press conference in the NHC media room, the Vice President was gracious in his praise of the National Weather Service and its National Hurricane Center for its hard work and dedication in keeping the U.S. prepared for the 2019 hurricane season.


Vice President Mike Pence is flanked by NOAA leadership and members of the staff from NWS Miami and the National Hurricane Center. June 25, 2019. Photo credit: Dennis Feltgen, NOAA/NHC Communications




Planning the Future of Human Spaceflight Support

Space Weather Prediction Center Leaders Meet with National Aeronautics and Space Administration Counterparts

A delegation from NCEP’s Space Weather Prediction Center (SWPC), led by SWPC Director Clinton Wallace, visited Johnson Space Center in Houston on 13-14 June.  The visit centered around a Technical Interchange Meeting hosted by the National Aeronautics and Space Administration's (NASA) Space Radiation Analysis Group (SRAG).  The meeting was held to discuss support requirements for future human space exploration beyond Low Earth orbit.  Participants included managers and scientists from SWPC, SRAG, NASA Headquarters, Marshall, and Goddard Space Flight Centers.  The outcome of the meeting was a draft document that seeks to codify the relationship between the agencies and their contributions to the exploration mission.  SWPC, under various names, has been providing impact-based space weather decision support services to NASA since the Gemini era.

Group picture of NASA personnel and NOAAs Gary Heckman (far right) and Joe Hirman (hand raised) at the end of the Apollo 17 mission, December 19, 1972.

NOAA and NASA colleagues listen as Space Radiation Analysis Group’s Steve Johnson describes support to the International Space Station from the SRAG console in the Mission Control building at Johnson Space Center, Houston, Texas.

Pictured left to right:  Steve Johson (NASA), Bill Murtagh (SWPC), Brent Gordon (SWPC), Clinton Wallace (SWPC), Jim Spann (NASA), Kerry Lee (NASA), Eddie Semones (NASA SRAG).  Not Pictured:  Hazel Bane (SWPC), Rob Steenburgh (SWPC)].


WSA-ENLIL V2.0 Now Operational

SWPC is pleased to announce the successful implementation of the upgraded WSA-Enlil heliospheric model v2.0 (the first upgrade since the initial implementation in late 2011), effective with the 1400UTC model run on May 29. This upgrade provides improvements to the existing code base and anticipates the implementation of the Air Force Data Assimilative Photospheric Flux Transport (ADAPT) model in the near future. The most significant impact of this upgrade is a rescaling of the WSA inputs to more accurately describe the ambient solar wind conditions, and thus offering improved arrival time predictions for coronal mass ejections. For more detailed information on the upgrade, please consult NWS Service Change Notice 19-36.



NCEP 2019 Quarter 2 Newsletter



National Aviation Meteorologists provide Convective Season Hazard Training

David Bieger and Brandon Smith, Aviation Weather Center National Aviation Meteorologists, provided convective season hazard refresher training to Air Traffic Control System Command Center (ATCSCC) personnel March 11-15. This daily training was open to all government and industry stakeholders at the ATCSCC. Topics included instruction on thunderstorm development and life-cycle, thunderstorm climatology, a primer on lightning and an introduction to phenomenon such as the Low Level Jet and Mesoscale Convective Systems.  This training also highlighted the various tools and data types the NWS uses on a daily basis to forecast and warn of thunderstorm impacts.  Finally, the training explored the Traffic Flow Management Convective Forecast (TCF), a collaborative forecast between government and industry meteorologists. This product is the primary convective guidance when collaborating on Traffic Management Initiatives. The goal of this training was to provide FAA specialists with the best tools and information necessary to mitigate impacts from thunderstorms and ensure the safe and efficient operation of the National Airspace System.



Photo Caption:National Aviation Meteorologist Brandon Smith briefs an FAA specialist on thunderstorm development and hazards at the Air Traffic Control System Command Center​



Climate Prediction Center Provides Enhanced Week-2 Decision Support Services (DSS) During Winter 2018-19

Over the past few years, the Climate Prediction Center has been laying the groundwork for providing probabilistic hazards outlooks in the week-2 time period for temperature, precipitation, and strong winds. The development of a probabilistic version of the hazards outlook (it had previously been deterministic, which required a 50% threshold before it would be indicated) allowed increased lead time for events that have a lower likelihood of occurring, but very high potential impact. The product provides the likelihood of the risk, enabling improved planning and mitigation. The outlook leverages real time and reforecast data from the GEFS and ECMWF forecast models, which were then post-processed, in order to produce a reliable, calibrated probabilistic forecast tool for extremes.

During the winter of 2018-19, numerous high-impact cold-air outbreaks were successfully forecast at 8 to 14 day leads using this revolutionary product.  For instance the record-breaking cold snap at the end of January, which resulted in temperatures lower than -20°F in Chicago, was predicted with high confidence close to 10 days in advance (see figure below).  Stakeholders from NWS central region reported that these outlooks were critical in mitigating adverse impacts due to the severe cold.  





















Photo Caption: Climate Prediction Center probabilitistic hazards outlook issued January 18, 2019.



Hurricanes Florence and Michael Retired

The World Meteorological Organization’s Region IV Hurricane Committee met in Curacao in late March with a busy agenda. This committee is chaired by Ken Graham, Director of the National Hurricane Center. One of the most highly anticipated votes was to decide if any names from the 2018 tropical storm name list should be retired.  The vote was overwhelming – Florence and Michael would be removed from the list and replaced with Francine and Milton. These new names will first appear in the 2024 list of storm names.

Storm names are retired if they were so deadly or destructive that the future use of the name would be insensitive - otherwise, names are reused on a six-year cycle. A total of 89 names have been retired from the Atlantic basin list since 1953, when storms began to be named. The 2005 hurricane season has the most retired names – five – for one season.

Photo Caption: The WMO RA-IV Hurricane Committee votes to retire “Florence” from the Atlantic storm list. March 20, 2019. Credit: NOAA


National Hurricane Center Trains Emergency Managers for the 2019 Hurricane Season

For almost 30 years, NOAA’s National Hurricane Center has provided training to emergency managers and decision makers in the use of its products and services. The premier offering is the FEMA L-0324 course "Hurricane Preparedness for Decision Makers".  The five-day course is offered to two dozen emergency managers and decision makers from each of three regions in the U.S (Northeast, Southeast, and Gulf). It’s stacked with the usage of storm surge, satellite technology, and track and intensity forecasts, all leading up to a hands-on exercise. The course is designed to provide the necessary tools so as to make the critical evacuation decisions when the next hurricane approaches their state. 


Photo Credit: Students from Maine to Virginia listen to NHC Director Ken Graham as the FEMA L0324 course gets underway. February 4, 2019  

Credit: NOAA



White House Announces New Policy Initiatives for Space Weather

On March 27, at the National Space Council meeting in Huntsville, Alabama, White House Office of Science and Technology Policy Director Kelvin Droegemeier announced the release of a new National Space Weather Strategy and Action Plan to improve the Nation’s preparedness for space weather events. The plan supports three main objectives: (1) Enhance the protection of critical infrastructure and national security assets; (2) Improve the accuracy and timeliness of space weather forecasts; and (3) Establish procedures for responding to and recovering from space weather events. The document was developed by the Space Weather Operations, Research, and Mitigation Working Group, co-chaired by Dr. Louis Uccellini, with significant support from the staff at the Space Weather Prediction Center (SWPC). As our national dependence on technology continues to grow dramatically, this new strategy provides a roadmap for strengthening our security and resilience to space weather events.

Additionally, just two hours after the release of the National Space Weather Strategy and Action Plan, the President signed Executive Order 13865 - Coordinating National Resilience to Electromagnetic Pulses. Electromagnetic Pulses (EMP) are defined as man-made or natural. A natural EMP is a space weather-related geomagnetic storm. The Executive Order recognizes that naturally occurring EMPs can affect large geographic areas, with potential disruption to the Nation’s security and economic prosperity. As part of the Administration’s goal to improve the Nation’s resilience to the effects of EMPs, the Executive Order directs the Secretary of Commerce to use the capabilities of the Department of Commerce, the private sector, academia, and nongovernmental organizations to improve operational space weather forecasting services. These new policy statements will play an important role in defining actions at SWPC that are designed to improve the understanding and prediction capabilities necessary to enhance the Nation’s resilience against space-weather events.


Photo Credit: White House Office of Science and Technology Policy Director Kelvin Droegemeier announces a new National Space Weather Strategy and Action Plan. March 26, 2019​



The New NOAA/NWS National Forecast Chart


On April 1, NOAA’s Weather Prediction Center (WPC) officially upgraded its national forecast charts that depict daily weather across the U.S. for the upcoming three days. These are the most substantial changes to the iconic NOAA charts in more than 18 years and were implemented after an extensive experimental phase and feedback process.

The national forecast chart is used extensively across the weather enterprise and is shared daily with more than 40,000 emergency management contacts through the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA).

The new charts are cleaner, easier-to-read, and display daily weather features and hazardous weather forecasts over the contiguous United States. In addition to severe weather and flash flooding, areas of rain, snow, freezing rain, thunderstorms, mixed precipitation, and tropical cyclones are plotted on a vibrant and visually appealing map background. The upgrade incorporates the latest mapping services from Esri and other open source data visualization tools.

“The National Forecast Chart is America's 'go-to' summary of the day's weather. This upgrade dramatically modernizes the look, feel, and function of the chart to enable the most effective decision support for our partners,” said David Novak, Ph.D., director for NOAA’s Weather Prediction Center in College Park, Maryland.

In addition to the static files, perhaps the most substantial change will introduce an interactive Geographic Information System (GIS) map to display the forecast charts. This allows users the ability to turn weather and hazard layers on and off and provides panning and zoom capabilities.

The charts will continue to be available in a variety of image formats, including pdf files and thumbnail images for NWS and NOAA webpages. A Spanish language version of the national forecast chart will also continue to be produced with the new map format.

Photo Credit: The National Forecast Chart from March 10, 2019, captures a variety of  hazardous weather areas and precipitation types highlighted on the new map. (Credit: Weather Prediction Center)



NCEP 2019 Quarter 1 Newsletter



Aviation Weather and Air Traffic Management Training for the Civil Aviation Administration of China


The Aviation Weather Center hosted the Aviation Weather and Air Traffic Management (ATM) Decision Making Integration Training for the Civil Aviation Administration of China (CAAC) ATM Bureau (ATMB) in Kansas City on December 7, 2018. The CAAC/ATMB sent 14 aviation weather and ATM leaders for a two-week training course in the U.S.


The training provides CAAC/ATMB with the state-of-the-practice knowledge of aviation weather observations, nowcasting and forecasting technology, operations management and support to ATM. This advanced aviation weather and ATM decision making training course is in response to China’s growing civil aviation industry. CAAC/ATMB also visited the National Aviation Meteorologists at the Air Traffic Control System Command Center (ATCSCC).

Photo Caption: AWC Deputy Director Clinton Wallace, AWC Meteorologists Stephanie Avey, Tim Mahony, Brian Pettegrew, and CAAC/ATMB representatives.



Climate Prediction Center Issues El Niño Advisory

The Climate Prediction Center upgraded the previously issued El Niño Watch to an El Niño Advisory on February 14, 2019.   Above-average sea surface temperatures (SSTs) across the western and central Pacific, which had been observed since late 2018, became weakly coupled to the tropical atmosphere.  Forecasters expect that this episode has a 55% that it will last through the spring.  This forecast relies on current observations, including a substantial supply of warmer-than-average subsurface waters in the equatorial Pacific.  In addition, most of the dynamical models predict continued equatorial Pacific surface temperature anomalies above +0.5°. With the exception of a few models, the forecasts are closely grouped, indicating they are fairly confident in the forecast.  However, models historically have a harder time making successful forecasts for El Niño during the spring (the “spring predictability barrier”). 


The late start combined with the weak conditions, implies that El Niño is unlikely to exert significant impacts outside of the Tropics for the next few months.  For example, historical precipitation patterns associated with El Niño show that only about 4 of the past 11 El Niño years exhibited above-average rainfall in California during March-April-May. Another way of looking at the historical relationships shows that ENSO has very little correlation to precipitation over North America during the spring or summer.  Historically, El Niño is generally associated with suppressed trpoical cyclone activity in the Atlantic and enhanced activity in the eastern Pacific.  However, El Niño is only one factor, and the Climate Prediction Center will release its forecasts for the 2019 North Atlantic and Eastern Pacific Hurricane Seasons in late May.


Photo Caption: Average sea surface temperature (SST) anomalies (°C) for the week centered on 6 February 2019.  Anomalies are computed with respect to the 1981-2010 base period weekly means.




Environmental Modeling Center Updates the Real Time Mesoscale Analysis (RTMA), UnRestricted Mesoscale Analysis (URMA), and RTMA-Rapid Update (RTMA-RU) Models


On Tuesday December 4, 2018, at 1200 GMT, the Environmental Modeling Center updated the Real Time Mesoscale Analysis (RTMA), UnRestricted Mesoscale Analysis (URMA), and RTMA-Rapid Update (RTMA-RU) Models. The RTMA-RU system was changed so that its products are delivered within 15 minutes after the analysis time. The RTMA for Guam is now run hourly and uses the NCEP 3-km High-Res Window forecast to provide a much finer resolution background field.  The Alaska RTMA and URMA leverage the 3-km High Resolution Rapid Refresh Alaska forecast fields as inputs into the analysis.  The ceiling/sky cover analysis is now run for all OCONUS domains (Guam, Alaska, Hawaii, Puerto Rico) to support the National Blend of Models.  The ceiling and visibility analyses have improved for all domains by switching to a more sophisticated analysis algorithm that allows for a closer match to observations through a nonlinear transformation technique.  The CONUS RTMA, URMA, and RTMA-RU analyses now use Mesonet visibility observations in their data assimilation following collaboration with NOAA/GSD. 


The RTMA/URMA system also included two enhancements to allow a closer fit to observations following coordination with stakeholders.  The first is a revised background error variance for temperature that varies as a function of terrain complexity, allowing the analysis to better capture valley cold pools. The second is an updated observation selection algorithm that forces the analysis to assimilate only the observation reported from a station that is valid closest to the analysis time.  Since the analysis is no longer fitting a window of observations from a station this allows for a sharper analysis that is more representative of current conditions.


For the CONUS-grid URMA precipitation analysis, gaps offshore and in Canada are now filled using data from MRMS (Multi-Radar Multi-Sensor) and the CMORPH (Climate Prediction Center MORPHing Technique) precipitation analysis.


The RTMA development team thanks all collaborators, centers, and WFOs for their continued feedback and assistance in making this, and all upgrades, successful.






Photo Caption: A comparison of the new and old RTMA-RU cloud analysis with observed ceilings. The modified RTMA-RU ceiling analysis algorithm (right panel) more accurately depicts the observed IFR to LIFR ceilings (center panel) than the previous operational ceiling analysis (left panel). The images in the figure were all produced by EMC. 



National Blend of Models Implemented on Weather and Climate Operational Supercomputing System (WCOSS) Dell System

Photo Caption: NBM webpage that allows users to display output from the NBM. Webpage available at                                                                                                                                   

On October 3, 2018, NCEP Central Operations (NCO) implemented an upgrade to the National Blend of Models (NBM).  This NBM, developed by scientists at the National Weather Service’s (NWS) Meteorological Development Laboratory (MDL), produces a nationally consistent and skillful suite of calibrated forecast guidance from a blend of both NWS and non-NWS models for use in forecasting at the national centers and local field offices.  This version, NBM 3.1.2, added more models to the Blend for CONUS and OCONUS locations, added fire weather, radar, thunder, and significant wave height elements to the suite of products, enhanced the quantitative precipitation forecast (QPF) and probability of precipitation (POP) products, added precipitation type for Alaska, and added new NBM-based text products for the first time.       


In addition to the important improvements to the NBM, this implementation was significant because it represents the first time the NWS has run an operational model on the new Dell components of the WCOSS system.  WCOSS is currently made up of 3 distinct hardware systems – the IBM-based systems originally delivered in 2012, the Cray systems delivered in 2016, and the newest Dell components.  The Dell hardware arrived in mid-2018, and represented an addition of roughly 1.4 Petaflops of compute power per system.  NCO spent months testing the new systems and preparing them to run operational models, including the necessary data dissemination for the NBM and future models NCO will run on the Dells.  With the implementation of the NBM on the Dell, NCO is now running the operational NCEP Production Suite of more than 30 models across all three components of WCOSS.                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                             

Photo Caption: Picture of NCO’s Dell system “Venus” located in Orlando, FL.  Photo taken by S.Earle.



National Hurricane Center Expands National Storm Surge Hazard Map


The National Hurricane Center (NHC) updated its National Storm Surge Hazard Maps. The improvements included the addition of the Hawaiian Islands, the U.S. Virgin Islands and Hispaniola. The first version was issued in 2014 and covered the U.S coastline from Texas to Maine.  Puerto Rico was added in a second version in 2017. 


These interactive maps enable people living in hurricane-prone coastal areas to evaluate their risk of coastal flooding due to storm surge. The maps make it clear that storm surge is not just a beachfront problem, with the risk of storm surge extending many miles inland from the immediate coastline in some areas.


Several members of the NHC Storm Surge Unit have traveled to the Dominican Republic  (DR) in early December to help train the staff at the DR Meteorological Service be able to use the new tool effectively.

Photo Caption: NHC storm surge team leader Jamie Rhome leads the training and discussion with forecasters at the meteorological service in the Dominican Republic, as they learn how to use the updated National Storm Surge Hazard Maps. December 4, 2018  Photo credit: NOAA


National Hurricane Center’s use of Facebook Live a resounding success


The National Hurricane Center took its Facebook presence to another level during the 2018 hurricane season. Already the most “liked” page in all NOAA with more than 1.3 million followers, NHC used the Facebook Live feature during three U.S. landfalling hurricane threats (Gordon, Florence and Michael). Using the interactive screen at the hurricane briefing desk, NHC Director Ken Graham provided the latest updates on the storm, with an emphasis on the specific hazards of storm surge, inland freshwater flooding and wind. Graham also moved about the Operations Area, speaking with the hurricane specialist as new information became available. The videos were viewed nearly 3 million times, with half of the views during Hurricane Florence. Several newspapers posted edited versions of the broadcasts on their respective websites.


Photo Credit: NHC Director Ken Graham provides a Facebook Live broadcast as Hurricane Michael nears landfall onto the Florida Gulf Coast, while NOAA/NHC Communications Officer Dennis Feltgen handles the camera duties. October 6, 2018 Photo credit: NOAA



SWPC Selected by International Civil Aviation Organization as a Provider of Global Space Weather Services

In November 2018, the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) selected the Space Weather Prediction Center (SWPC) to provide global space weather products and services to the international aviation community.  This is a significant milestone for SWPC that recognizes its global leadership and preeminent status as a global provider of these services.  It also marks an important opportunity for SWPC to create and produce new products that will meet the increasing demands of global aviation.  The new global space weather products and services are focused on the aviation community’s ability to navigate via GPS, communicate with air traffic controllers on the ground, and protect passengers and crews from the effects of ionizing radiation. 


When the ICAO selected SWPC as a global provider, it also named two other centers as global providers and another two centers as providers of regional products and services.  Three of these four other centers are actually consortia of several countries that have come together to pool their expertise in this area.  In total, there are now 16 other countries that will be providing space weather products and services to the global aviation community.  This presents both opportunities and challenges for SWPC and the other countries involved. 


For years the United States had been the world's only fully operational provider of space weather information 24 hours a day.  In the past five years, the United Kingdom’s Meteorology Office became the second 24/7 operational center to provide this service.  Now with this designation, SWPC will start to have several other partners in the world.  This is already providing dividends as we have entered into research partnerships with several countries in Europe to research both ionospheric and radiation effects on these products.  It has also provided new challenges for SWPC to overcome.  With 17 countries now involved in the production of these products and services, several barriers must be overcome to ensure we are all providing consistent products of accurate quality.  SWPC is currently working to overcome language and cultural barriers along with differences in technological readiness levels to ensure that the global aviation community always receives an accurate set of products.


This is certainly an exciting time for SWPC and we are investing many resources and time to ensure that we develop not only products and services of the highest quality, but also tools and procedures to ensure global consistency.  Through this work, SWPC will ensure that the global aviation community receives the information it needs to continue to provide safe air travel for all.