This is where all forecasts for the area are made
for land, air, and water, using the Advanced Weather Interactive Processing
System (AWIPS), which is our mainframe computer system. AWIPS was installed
at Sterling in the Spring of 1999. It allows the forecast staff to analyze
computer forecast guidance, otherwise know as "computer models", in 4 dimensions
(along the Earth's surface as well as with respect to height and time),
and overlay this data with satellite, radar, and local weather reports.
An example of a typical AWIPS graphic workstation screen can be seen on
the right (except the resolution normally is much better). In the
big pane is computer model data. The screen is interactive, allowing
the forecaster to load and display the desired fields, or compare the same
parameters among several computer models. There are four smaller
panes in which any item or combination of items can be stored for later
viewing. For instance, on the left is an enhanced, infrared satellite
picture with surface observations overlaid.
||In the image to the left is the forecast
operations center. The forecast position on the left is the short
term, or aviation, forecast desk. At this desk terminal forecasts (called
TAFs) and route forecasts (TWEBs) are composed for aviation purposes. These
products are issued every 6 hours, and updated as needed. This forecaster
is also responsible for writing the marine forecast (Coastal Waters Forecast)...also
done 4 times a day and updated as necessary, fire weather forecasts and
spot briefings, and Short Term Forecasts as the weather requires. "Short
fused" warnings, such as for Severe Thunderstorms, Tornadoes, Flash Floods,
and marine warnings, would be the decision of this person as well. On active
weather days, additional staff would be on hand or called in to assist
with all these duties. The warning process is explained in greater
detail under the radar operations section of this tour.
On the right is the long term, or public, forecast
desk. This person composes the 7-day forecast traditionally distributed
via radio and other media sources. "Longer fused" items, such as winter
storm watches/warnings, windchill or heat advisories/warnings, and flood
watches-- to name a few-- would be the responsibility of this person.
|All of the forecast products
are generated by the forecaster using AWIPS. The forecaster
interaction with the system is performed through a set of matrices.
Counties or areas are grouped based on similar forecast weather conditions.
Then, each group gets a matrix with the various weather fields and time
steps. This interface can be seen below right. AWIPS assigns
first guess variables to each matrix position. These fields are then
adjusted by the forecaster based on meteorological principles and forecaster
experience. As the parameters are adjusted in the matrix on the lower
left, he/she can compare the values in the group being worked on with the
other groups via the small windows on the map, and can also view the proposed
wording in the window along the lower right part of the display.
Once complete, this sets the foundation for all generated products as the
individual forecast products are composed by AWIPS based upon this matrix.
The forecaster does have the option to adjust the wording of the final
product to best explain details before the products are transmitted.
||When "long fused" warnings, watches,
or advisories need to be issued, AWIPS contains a program to accomplish
this task as well. These items are then displayed on a map, an example
of which can be seen to the left. This map displays not only the
area served by our forecast office, but also areas covered by surrounding
offices. This way, offices can more readily coordinate with each
other. AWIPS software can recognize any watches, warnings, or advisories
in effect, and will break apart groups, if necessary, and insert the appropriate
headline in the forecast products.