1.4 The COMET Program: Fifteen years of education and training for weather forecasters and the user community

Monday, 1 August 2005: 9:15 AM
Ambassador Ballroom (Omni Shoreham Hotel Washington D.C.)
Timothy Spangler, UCAR/COMET, Boulder, CO

The Cooperative Program for Operational Meteorology, Education and Training (COMET®) was created in 1989 to provide professional development for the nation's weather services. During the subsequent 15 years the COMET Program has developed a series of highly interactive training components through collaborative efforts of subject matter experts, resident meteorologists, instructional designers, and graphic artists. Approximately 350 hours of instruction has been produced during this period, and the targeted audience includes NOAA/NWS Science and Operations Officers (SOOs), forecasters from the NWS, Air Force, Navy and the Meteorological Service of Canada, aviation forecasters, and university faculty, staff and students.

During the past 15 years, professional training emphases have included such areas as radar meteorology, convection, NWP, the forecast process, aviation meteorology, marine meteorology, northern latitude meteorology, hydrometeorology, the upper atmosphere, and various other mesoscale topics. COMET distance learning has evolved from laser discs to compact discs and finally Web-based training. Webcasts presented by various subject matter experts have been produced en masse over the last few years. All of the distance learning components have been made available to the general public as they are published. The COMET Residence Program has delivered approximately 197,000 student-hours of live instruction (152 course offerings) for forecasters, managers, and university faculty. These courses have taken the form of multi-week intense SOO training, 1-week symposia/workshops and focused 3-day symposia.

The COMET Outreach Program has facilitated joint applied research projects involving approximately 80 universities, 190 faculty members and 220 NWS principal investigators, addressing the merger of pressing operational problems with the latest academic research. In these projects operational forecasting experts team with university scientists to achieve this merger.

The future portends a continued dedicated distance learning program aimed at a progressively diverse and international set of customers. Blended learning courses, consisting of components involving live coordinated training broadcasts, residence, and self-paced learning, have already begun at COMET and their role is expected to increase over the next five years. While the important role of NOAA as a sponsor will continue, it is expected that education and outreach efforts will expand beyond the traditional limits of meteorology as the COMET Program evolves. Expansion into space weather, dispersion and oceanography are already underway.

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