A major goal of the SPoRT Program is to develop metrics and conduct assessment studies with NWS forecasters to evaluate the impacts and benefits of ESE experimental products on forecast skill. At a glance the task seems relatively straightforward. However, performing assessment of experimental products in an operational environment is demanding. Given the tremendous time constraints placed on NWS forecasters, it is imperative that forecaster input be obtained in a concise unobtrusive manor. Great care must also be taken to ensure that forecasters understand their participation will eventually benefit them and WFO operations in general. Two requirements of the assessment plan developed under the SPoRT activity are that it 1) Can be implemented within the WFO environment; and 2) Provide tangible results for BOTH the research and operational communities.
Supplemental numerical quantitative precipitation forecasts (QPF) were chosen as the first experimental SPoRT product to be evaluated during a Pilot Assessment Program conducted I May 2003 within the Huntsville AL National Weather Service Forecast Office. Forecast time periods were broken up into six-hour bins ranging from zero to twenty-four hours. Data were made available for display in AWIPS on an operational basis so they could be efficiently incorporated into the forecast process.
The methodology used to assess the value of experimental QPFs compared to available operational products is best described as a three-tier approach involving both forecasters and research scientists. Tier-one is a web-based survey completed by duty forecasters on the aviation and public desks. The survey compiles information on how the experimental product was used in the forecast decision making process. Up to 6 responses per twenty-four hours can be compiled during a precipitation event. Tier-two consists of an event post mortem and experimental product assessment performed daily by the NASA/NWS Liaison. Tier-three is a detailed breakdown/analysis of specific events targeted by either the NWS SOO or SPoRT team members. The task is performed by both NWS and NASA research scientists and may be conducted once every couple of months. The findings from the Pilot Assessment Program will be reported at the meeting.