WRF testbed gets its first director
A new hat for Bob Gall
One of NCAR’s longest-serving division directors is moving on, but he won’t be leaving Foothills Lab. Bob Gall, who took the helm of the Mesoscale and Microscale Meteorology (MMM) Division in 1991, will be relocating down the hall to head up the new Developmental Testbed Center (DTC) for the Weather Research and Forecasting (WRF) model.
Bob came to MMM from the University of Arizona in Tucson, where he researched tornadoes, fronts, tropical and extratropical cyclones, planetary waves, and the Arizona monsoon.
During the past few years, he has intermingled his MMM duties with several other big tasks. He took almost a year off from his director’s duties in 1999 when he became lead scientist for the U.S. Weather Research Program (USWRP), a role that continues today. (Rich Rotunno stepped in as MMM’s interim director.) Bob also spent seven months on the mesa as NCAR deputy director from late 2001 to early 2002.
Bob says the USWRP still has a place in his future. “I’ve been lead scientist for a long time, and I’d like to keep doing that for a while.” He’ll officially step down from his MMM post as soon as a replacement is found, perhaps before the end of 2003.
“I have accepted [Bob’s] resignation from the MMM directorship,” wrote NCAR director Tim Killeen in an announcement on 19 August, “with an understanding of his desire for new challenges and a deep appreciation for his many contributions in this role over the past 12 years.”
A joint effort of NCAR and NOAA, the DTC opens this autumn in the FL3 space being vacated by a group from NOAA’s National Severe Storms Laboratory. The center will allow scientists to put what will soon be the nation’s flagship model for weather prediction and research through some cutting-edge paces.
“The idea of the DTC is simple,” says Bob. “It’s a place where you can go and try out new ideas in numerical weather prediction without interfering with forecast operations.”
Though located at NCAR, the center will be an autonomous entity, with much of the computing done by scientists from a distance. Bob and colleague Steve Koch (NOAA’s Forecast System Laboratory) spent the past year drumming up support for the center, as well as for a parallel operational testbed to be housed at the National Weather Service’s National Centers for Environmental Prediction.
The ultimate goal for the DTC is about a dozen full-time staff and a strong visitor program, with an annual budget on the order of $5 million.
The DTC will allow researchers to test a wide range of new methods and model components that may eventually be used operationally. The center will also maintain the code for WRF’s various permutations and keep an archive of each day’s forecasts, totalling 200 to 300 terabytes of data per year. Finally, researchers can use the DTC to explore the best means of verifying an experimental model’s performance, especially in predicting individual thunderstorms and other features that are omitted or more crudely predicted in working models.
“I think the DTC will provide a very quick way to get ideas from the research world into the operational models,” says Bob. “If something starts to look promising, I guarantee you it will move quickly into operations.” •Bob Henson