Weather Service Warnings Use Case

From Earth Science Information Partners (ESIP)

Weather Service Warnings; May session of the ESIP Discovery Cluster

May 18, 2023

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Meeting Introduction

Weather service warnings are issued and distributed to the masses to deliver accurate and actionable information to save lives and property in response to weather events. The discovery cluster has invited Nelson Vaz, a warnings coordinator for the National Weather Service, to share the repeatable processes that the weather service uses to forecast and issue warnings. What tools do NWS forecasters use to generate warnings, and how is this information disseminated to end users to provide locality specific, timely, and actionable information.

The Discovery Cluster has developed a Usage Base Discovery (UBD) paradigm for dataset discovery.  UBD could help document how expert users like meteorologist derive actionable information from data, like weather models and satellite products.  Dataset usages are cataloged and documented in a knowledge graph to help make explicit how expert users apply Earth Science information to inform specific derived products and analyses.  The outcome of this meeting with Nelson Vaz may be captured as submissions to the UBD knowledge graph.  However, the weather service warnings use case provides more than this, as the weather service is an example of effective information delivery in response to specific events.

The Discovery Cluster has previously tried to understand the specific distillation of very complex Earth Science information into clear and actionable end user information, like in the case of flooding information (See UBD Use Case). Are there other uses for the information that weather service staff are accessing to develop warnings, and how could the general public discover this additional information in a timely fashion?  What improvements do we need to make to the UBD tool to address this and similar event based use cases (eg. wildfire response), and what can we glean from how the Weather Service disseminates this information for weather warnings?

Meeting Notes

Nelson Vaz, Warnings Coordination Meteorologist for the Weather Service New York Office serving forecast and warnings for the tri-state area: Southern Connecticut, Lower Hudson Valley, New York City, Northeastern New Jersey, and Long Island. A new mission for the NY Office is weather support for public safety officials. They serve ~19 Million people, or 7% of the US population. NY Office collects weather observations, generates 7-day forecasts, provides warnings, and supports several specialized forecast products. Partners include public officials and private partners like the Port Authority hospital systems and utilities. Media is a partner that amplifies the information. The diversity of weather hazards, and of the population in the Tri-State present a lot of different partner needs and a lot of vulnerability that can be a challenge to the New York Office.

Discussion of the use of technology, such as calibrating model output to observations and other modeling techniques. There are more manual processes on the end user side to apply the model output to weather forecasting.

Weather Service has 12 National Centers, the experts on severe weather producing a lot of research and innovation in forecasting technology.

Advanced Weather Interactive Processing System (AWIPS) used to visualize and interrogate satellite, observational, radar, modeling output. They do a lot, including observations, forecast warnings and the decision support. Weather models are key, Days 3-7, use big picture, synoptic, mesoscale, down to city level as you get closer to an event - heavy snow banding, flash flooding, etc. Course resolution and high resolution models including GFS, NAM, European, UK Met. Weather ensembles are huge, or ensembles of an individual models where you change how the model runs to give a spread of solutions what could happen in the future. Take those observations, and see if the model is initializing things correctly, and trade off the strengths and weaknesses of some of these models to come up with the most likely scenario, the best case, and the worst case. Also have automated probabilistic forecasts to compare with the human experience forecasting. Can calibrate them based on model history and performance, bias correction to fine tune them a bit more.

Produce a gridded forecast database, taking the forecast, using certain models and model blends, putting all this analysis into a final gridded forecast. In certain situations prefer different analysis - continuously updated and modified - extrapolating out for seven days for public use by anybody - but used to generate a lot of forecast products. Warnings are generated out of this system - Watches 48, Warnings 36 hours in, event likely to occur - using Hazard Building. Smaller scale - tornado, hydrological on the 3 hour timescale, use Hazard services to issue the warnings through numerous dissemination channels - NOAA emergency radio, emergency alert, FEMA IClaws, . If it's life threatening - it gets issued through Wireless Emergency Alerts (WEA) that alerts to your cell phone. Text products are also available through the NWS New York Products webpage - generated automatically against existing thresholds for warnings, for example

The next step is the weather support - we don't want people to search all about to gather this information, so we take all this information and give briefings to officials. The Baseline Impact Decision Support Briefing sent to core partners to bring all different hazards during an event into one briefing. This can address a lot of concerns from a lot of different users. Use templates in Powerpoint with image that will auto-update, slide deck that can be customized to the event, etc. to create more consistent and efficient to produce briefing materials. The Main Points table is the opening slides - all the text is written out by the forecaster - have statements that the forecaster can draw from but they have to edit it - to explain what, where, and when. Infographics to explain types of hazards. Then diving into specific details targeted to specific hazards, such as damaging winds, etc. which is auto-populated, but then the forecaster has to modify the details customized to the event. Advisory to partners who may use other forecast products (private sector) and provide another perspective that can help partners plan for these events.


Bob Downs question: Network - getting data from other offices, as well as sharing analysis - how do you coordinate to generate forecasts that you provide?

Have a chat with other offices, or and national centers can advise on amount of rainfall or a specific predication. For a multi-hazard system can have other offices and the National center on the call. For tropical, the hurricane center is involved, and the NY Office interprets the impacts to their region. Collaborate as much as possible to come up with as much of a unified coordinated picture as possible.

Jonathan Blythe question: how do you record the data or models that were used to produce a figure in the forecast product?

This product comes out of the gridded database - it's some sort of model blend - start with National blend of models - but within 24 hours some details are very important and you are blending out some of the details, so you change the blending. You can probably go into the forecast editor and see exactly what was blended in. Nothing is made public - some discussion and insight in the product on what source data were used and deficiencies of certain products to forecast the warning.

Jonathan Blythe question: Usage Based Discovery allows us to look back at how previous analyses were generated so we have this as a reference point and don't have to start over every time a similar event comes up in the region.

The updates to models is every few months, and operational models are updated every few years. Forecasters sometimes have difficulty keeping up with model changes.

Jonathan Blythe question: So, maybe UBD is for weather forecasters to unpack the weather models and give you as the end user transparency on the model input, etc. whatever the changes are?

We may get verification numbers, but they are done continental US wide. Really, what we need is event based validation and calibration - it takes a lot of resources to perform case studies - this is where these models performed well and could learn from in the future.