National Weather Service 10-year restructuring increases forecast accuracy

By Agri-Pulse staff

© Copyright Agri-Pulse Communications, Inc.

WASHINGTON, Oct. 12- The National Weather Service (NWS) today released its assessment of a decade-long restructuring, The Modernization and Associated Restructuring (MAR) of the National Weather Service (NWS). 


The federal agency's re-engineering between 1989 and 2000 cost an estimated $4.5 billion and, according to the assessment, increased the accuracy and timeliness of forecast and warning services.  The Committee on the Assessment of the National Weather Service's Modernization Program determined that the investment was a success despite schedule and budget overruns. However, the committee also determined that certain aspects of weather forecasts and warning still need improvement, including false alarms and hurricane intensity forecasts. 


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Today's Congressionally requested report presents the first comprehensive assessment of MAR and the impact of its modernization with five major technologies. 


The implemented technologies were:

•           the Automated Surface Observing System, which replaced manual weather observations;

•           the Next Generation Weather Radar, a network of advanced Doppler radars that contributed to increased lead times in predicting severe weather events, such as tornadoes, hail, and flash floods;

•           a new series of satellites that provided improved, all-weather data for longer-term forecasting;

•           advanced computer systems that increased the computing power to support National Centers  tenfold; and

•           the Advanced Weather Interactive Processing System, which allowed communication among forecast offices and distribution of centrally collected data as well as offered field forecasters access to the data provided by the other new technologies.

According to the assessment, the NWS modernization significantly increased the amount of data and information available to field forecasters, academia, the private sector, and the general public. It also improved outreach and coordination with state and local government, emergency management, and communities; provided for more uniform radar coverage and surface observations across the U.S.; and dramatically enhanced forecast and warning products. 

The probability of detection and forecast lead times for tornadoes and flash floods grew after the modernization, but the ratios for false alarms have remained high. In addition, the performance of hurricane track forecasts have seen gains, whereas hurricane intensity forecasts have not.

The study, sponsored by the U.S. Department of Commerce, was conducted by The National Research Council of The National Academies, which include the National Academy of Sciences, the National Academy of Engineering, Institute of Medicine, and National Research Council. 


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