The Advent of Operational Digital Forecasts (Keynote Presentation)

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Tuesday, 6 January 2015: 1:45 PM
211A West Building (Phoenix Convention Center - West and North Buildings)
David P. Ruth, NOAA/NWS, Silver Spring, MD

In the span of Bob Glahn's career, we have witnessed an increasing reliance by operational meteorologists on computer technology to complete tasks that were formerly infeasible or accomplished by manual methods. This transition is marked by 3 major advances, none immediately recognized as such, and each dependent on the success of the prior. The first advance came in the field of numerical weather prediction. Although not embraced by operational forecasters at the start, a thorough review of numerical model output is an indispensable step in preparing a forecast today.

A second major advance came with the statistical interpretation of numerical model output by employing techniques such as perfect prog and Model Output Statistics (MOS). Resisted by field forecasters when introduced, statistical forecasts are also now part of the routine process. In fact, MOS guidance has become an accepted benchmark by which human forecasts are judged.

The third major advance came with the nationwide implementation of the Interactive Forecast Preparation System (IFPS) at National Weather Service (NWS) Weather Forecast Offices (WFO). Instead of manually typing an array of lengthy text products tailored for specific user communities, forecasters rely on graphical forecast editing techniques to prepare detailed forecasts of weather elements in a common digital database 7 days into the future on fine-resolution grids. From this database, IFPS software automatically composes and formats the legacy text suite of NWS products, and many new products as well. More importantly, the high-resolution forecast itself is now provided in digital forms that enable users and partners to easily integrate operational NWS forecasts into their own decision support systems.

This presentation will highlight Bob Glahn's foresight and his key contributions to the implementation of IFPS and the National Digital Forecast Database (NDFD). It will cover the development of computer worded forecasts, interactive forecast techniques to manipulate digital forecast data, and the assembly of local digital forecasts into a national mosaic. The wide success of NDFD in providing decision support services will be described.