NOAA ramps up Weather-Ready Nation initiative in nation’s capital
Launches new project to enhance weather forecasts and support for D.C, Baltimore
September 22, 2012
NOAA’s National Weather Service forecast office for the Baltimore/Washington, DC area.
Download here. (Credit: NOAA)
Today, NOAA announced service improvements underway at its forecast office in Sterling, Va., which provides weather forecasts and warnings and supports public safety decision-makers in the nation’s capital and Baltimore. This is the latest in a series of six pilot projects NOAA launched over the past year as part of its Weather-Ready Nation initiative to improve the country’s resilience to extreme weather.
The six Weather-Ready Nation projects focus on emergency response, ecological forecasting and enhanced support to officials who make public health and safety decisions when extreme weather sets in. Successful projects may be duplicated in other locations.
“We’re closer to becoming a Weather-Ready Nation every day,” said NOAA Administrator Dr. Jane Lubchenco. “Efforts to improve our service to the nation through these pilot projects along with upgrading our technology and integrating social science research in our warning language are helping us empower people to make life-saving decisions.”
Three new emergency response specialists at the Baltimore/Washington forecast office will allow the National Weather Service to improve its service to the region in a number of ways. For example, the office will now be able to provide a highly trained and certified meteorologist on the scene during major weather events to give on-demand briefings. Other service enhancements include:
- Cataloging local impacts from weather – going beyond the weather forecast to tell the public how that weather will affect society, giving people and local government more information about what actions they need to take;
- Providing better explanations about differences between the forecast (the most likely outcome) and the range of possibilities beyond three days out to help decision-makers plan for any possible scenario;
- Mapping flood threats to visually show where flood waters will inundate based on tidal and storm surge forecasts – this will help emergency managers keep people and their cars out of areas that are expected to flood;
- Improving the distribution of weather information by keeping up with new communication technologies and social media; and
- Working to achieve local weather-readiness where everyone gets a clear, understandable message when a weather disaster is imminent and knows what to do to protect themselves.
The extreme weather in 2011 – historic, costly and deadly – was the impetus for NOAA to start a national dialog about how to build a Weather-Ready Nation and its effort to improve service to the nation by launching these pilot projects.
“These weather forecast improvements will help emergency managers more effectively mitigate the impacts of flash flooding, floods, snow storms and other disasters in our area,” said Rep. Frank Wolf, whose Northern Virginia district is within the forecast area and home to the Sterling office. “For those who live in the Baltimore/Washington area, these impact-based weather forecasts may help save lives and reduce the cost of weather-related damages.”
As part of Weather-Ready Nation, NOAA has made fundamental changes during the past year touching every area of the agency’s work, from observing current weather and climate conditions to increasing lead times on severe weather warnings to improving how forecasts and warnings are communicated to the public.
By upgrading the nation’s network of Doppler radars to dual polarization, forecasters are able to better track and assess weather systems and warn the public. New NOAA facilities for water resource managementand weather and climate prediction will utilize the latest in satellite technologies as well as encourage collaborative efforts among water, weather and climate forecasters, leading to more accurate forecasts.
Weather forecasters are working with social scientists to improve communication between the weather community, emergency managers and the public. Through research and new warning language, the National Weather Service is helping the public make risk-averse decisions to protect their lives when dangerous weather threatens.
NOAA is working with a vast network of partners to build a Weather-Ready Nation. This network includes other government agencies, emergency managers, researchers, the media, the insurance industry, non-profits, the private sector, and the Weather Enterprise, among others. Through a series of symposiums, NOAA has engaged these partners to assess how the nation can become less vulnerable to the impacts of extreme weather, which is becoming more frequent. Initial reports coming out of dialog events have identified key action items to increase weather-readiness in the future.