UCAR Communications


staff notes monthly

November 2003

Supporting homeland security

The Research Applications Group is working with the Department of Defense and other agencies on several antiterrorism initiatives. During the 2002 Winter Olympics in Salt Lake City, for example, Tom Warner, Scott Swerdlin, and other scientists provided forecasts of weather variables that would have helped several organizations calculate the path of a hazardous plume if terrorists had released toxins into the atmosphere. This effort was part of the four-dimensional weather program (known as 4DWX) that Scott manages at RAP.

More recently, RAP has been working on systems that would quickly get information about weather and the transport of hazardous airborne substances to emergency crews. The team is developing methods for making the weather and hazard information available on portable devices such as cell phones and personal digital assistants (PDAs).

For example, first responders or incident managers during a terrorist attack would input an estimated hazardous material release point on the map displayed on a PDA. This information would be transmitted to a centralized weather forecast system that could predict the expected track of the hazardous materials and send a graphic back to the emergency responder’s PDA.

The photo to the right shows an image of a plume pattern on the screen of a PDA. Based on such information, emergency-response personnel could conduct necessary evacuation and decontamination procedures.

RAP is currently involved in negotiations with several defense-related agencies, which may result in a considerable expansion of the scope of this work to protect cities and other potentially vulnerable sites. •David Hosansky

More about this and similar RAP programs

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