1999 October Follow-Up Site

UCAR Forum Followup Information

Protecting Life and Property

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University Relations Committee (URC) Presentation

| Protecting Life & Property |
Maintaining Environmental Quality |
Enhancing National Economic Vitality | Strengthening Fundamental Understanding |

Protecting Life and Property
Break-out Session #1
12 October 1999

Co-chairs: Maura Hagan (NCAR); Kelvin Droegemeier (University of Oklahoma)

Co-chair plenary summary of the breakout session 

Following are paraphrases, not direct quotes, of the discussion.

Kelvin Droegemeier's intro:

"The landscape is really changing." IP by universities ranges from licensing univ's work to starting up a company. "The lines between ops and research are becoming really, really blurry." "This is a cultural change that people don't really understand." example: OKFirst, the state-run system that connects weather info and emergency managers. Such work could be done by a private company, but here it's a state agency doing it.

FAA + NWS: example of agencies that are "totally separate in their thinking" says KD.

Effective partnerships w/private sector are critical for PL&P, says KD, since so much protection/warning info passes through the media.

Q&A portion

How much should private industry be involved in the process of public warnings?

Speaker #1: "That's a very complicated issue."

e.g.: WeatherData (private firm in Wichita) does warnings for Burlington Northern Railroad; if TV stations have Doppler radars that see a tornado several minutes before the official NWS warning, should they go forth with the info they have?

Speaker #2: Increasing demand to "move" data directly into focused, automated decision support (so that meteorologist basically approves or declines the alert/warning rather than doing all of the decision-making). The goal is to "extract everything we know about the atmosphere & move it to the end user." Here, again, the interaction between private companies and official agencies is problematic.

Speaker #3: Data assimilation is a critical issue--"often more expensive than the computing." Many centers are now "tamping down" on $ for models/equipment and trying to wean more out of the data they have.

Speaker #4: Need to address differences between privates and nonprofits--"it's quite complex. Competition is the name of the game"--we need to accept that fact and deal with it.

Speaker #5: "The private sector is anything but monolithic." A more precise term may be "commercial/industrial". He says it's better to build relations with business now, while the economy's good, rather than waiting too long.

Speaker #6: Says that the Floyd evacuations cost $2 to $2.5 billion ,even before landfall!

Speaker #7: "The fundamental nature of the information flow is changing."

Speaker #8: "Whoa! Whoa!" He's nervous about unfiltered model data feeding directly into warnings. Better to have humans look at multiple outputs and do more of the processing. "Let's wait until we have a lot more confidence in the ultimate model."

Speaker #9: Need to consider what a warning is and does. In Illinois with tornado watches/warnings, people "don't listen, because almost all the time it's wrong."

Speaker #10: "I think we're all in agreement that the private sector's importance is growing very, very rapidly. The question is, how is the infrastructure going to respond to that."

Speaker #2: "There's millions of decisions being made every day . . . and the fact is that the forecasts still aren't good enough [even on 24- to 48- hour time scales]." We shouldn't get hung up on who issues the warnings: "There are a lot more higher-level problems that need to be solved in basic & applied research."

Speaker #11: Need to look at 2- to 7-day forecasts: "Are the forecasts really any good? Are the data highly reliable or are they useless." e.g., TV extended outlooks.

Speaker #5: During his tenure as head of NCAP, "One of the nightmares I head was a Cat. 4 hurricane coming in just west of New Orleans." That would be "unimaginably disastrous." He thinks the Floyd "overwarning" for Florida was OK--better safe than sorry.

Speaker #7: UCAR and univs. should explore the efficiency of regional models--perhaps a network of those could improve overall forecasts. [NOTE from Bob: This ties in well with Krishnamurti's superensemble work that pulls together different models in a new way.]

Speaker #12: We need a "very orchestrated effort" by universities to get NWS and other agencies talking to each other--"break down the walls and make it work". Also need to remember that "models go hand in hand with obs." He wants something more extensive than the COMET partners projects: "We need more than $30K [per project]. That's not even worth our time."

Speaker #13: Au contraire--COMET partners are successfully dealing with local problems of import--it's the big projects that it's not designed for. "Some very important people have suggested that this is the most underfunded program for its value." (Others say it's too well funded!).

Speaker #10: Noted the promise of multiparamater Doppler data in predicting hail.

Speaker #14: Hopes to do more retrospective studies using the WRF. Maura thought this was another good role for UCAR/univs.

Speaker #10: Public doesn't realize the vast array of knowledge already being produced--they hone in on the 1-2 day temps on TV. But--it's hard even for nat'l centers like CAPS to form alliances with private sector. He's putting together a conference in Norman next spring (May 2-5) modeled after the Nat'l Hurricane Conference (which involves both pub/private sector). This meeting is on the 3 May tornado outbreak. "The hurricane communities got their acts together on this. It's like a stakeholders' meeting."

Speaker #15: "What if there's an airborne bioterrorism event?" i.e., the community should be thinking about how they could be prsepared to help.


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