Thursday, 17 January 2002: 1:45 PM
Disseminating forecasts in areas of complex terrain through a WEB based interface
Weather forecasts issued by the National Weather Service (NWS) have historically been text based. The primary text forecast produced by the NWS is the Zone Forecast Product (ZFP), which describes the weather over a given geographical zone. In complex terrain, elevation differences within a zone can vary by thousands of meters, making it impossible to describe all the variations of expected weather with a short, text-based forecast. The ZFP in these areas tends to focus on populated areas, and often times entire forecast elements such as temperature or wind are not included because of their widely varying values. To address this problem, forecasters at the NWS office in Tucson have been using the Graphical Forecast Editor (GFE) to produce detailed digital forecasts of selected parameters on a 2.5 km grid. Using the Internet for transmission, these digital forecasts are now available to the general public. Two unique WEB pages have been designed that facilitate easy access to the entire gridded forecast database at its full 2.5 km resolution. The first WEB page displays a color image of a particular parameter such as temperature. This simple display is similar to the color maps of temperature shown on TV or on the weather page of newspapers, except it presents detailed terrain variations at 2.5 km resolution. The second WEB page displays an interactive map with geographical overlays such as roads and cities. The customers of this WEB page may choose any location on the map and receive in tabular form detailed forecast parameters at that location. In areas of complex terrain, these WEB pages allow customers to receive detailed information not possible through the standard ZFP. This paper describes the WEB pages developed in Tucson for interactive gridded forecast dissemination and interrogation. Examples of the utility of the NWS digital forecast in complex terrain are presented, as well as its practical application as gauged by selected customer feedback.