1.3 U.S. Numerical Weather Prediction: Time for a Restructuring?

Monday, 7 January 2013: 2:15 PM
Room 8ABC (Austin Convention Center)
Clifford F. Mass, University of Washington, Seattle, WA

Operational numerical weather prediction (NWP) began in the U.S. in the 1950s and for the next quarter century the U.S. was the world leader. However, during the past several decades U.S. NWP, centered in the National Weather Service (NWS), has fallen behind in global prediction to groups such as the European Center for Medium Range Forecasts and the UKMET office. Probabilistic prediction, seen as the future of the numerical prediction, has developed slowly and current U.S. operational NWP lags behind the state-of-the-art in many ways (e.g., resolution, post-processing). Although the U.S. maintains the largest meteorological research establishment in the world, transference of research insights to operational NWP has been relatively ineffective, resulting from relatively sparse interactions between the research and operational NWP communities, and accentuated by low levels of extramural weather research funding by operational agencies. Furthermore, the ability to improve U.S. NWP has been hampered by U.S. governmental NWP research (mainly in the NOAA OAR labs) being located in a different entity than operational NWP (NWS). Thus, the leadership of the NWS and the NWS Environmental Modeling Center (EMC) does not control the groups supporting their operational missions. Finally, the role of the private sector has been greatly altered during the past decades, with private entities requiring access to full resolution model grids and increasingly doing their own model postprocessing and high-resolution modeling. This talk will suggest that the time has come for a substantial restructuring of U.S. governmental NWP and major alterations in its relationship to the research and private sector communities. Specific changes will described that will foster more effective interactions between NWP research and development, changes that should lead to the U.S. regaining world leadership in numerical weather prediction and its application. Such restructuring should also lead to far more effective use of government NWP by the private sector and general community.
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