EM Forum Presentation — January 9, 2013

The NOAA/NWS Warning Decision Training Branch (WDTB)
On-line Training Resources for Emergency Managers
& Intro to Dual-Polarization Radar

Andrew Wood
NOAA Affiliate
Warning Decision Training Branch

Amy Sebring
EIIP Moderator

This transcript contains references to slides which can be downloaded from http://www.emforum.org/vforum/NWS/WDTBonlineTraining.pdf
A video recording of the live session is available at http://www.emforum.org/pub/eiip/lm130109.wmv
MP3 format at http://www.emforum.org/pub/eiip/lm130109.mp3
or in MP4format at http://www.emforum.org/pub/eiip/lm130109.mp4

[Welcome / Introduction]

Amy Sebring: Good morning/afternoon everyone and Happy New Year!  Welcome back to EMForum.org and we are very glad you could join us. I am Amy Sebring and will serve as your Host and Moderator today.

As you may know, the National Weather Service is in the process of installing the new, Dual Polarization radars at WFOs across the country.  These provide enhanced capabilities and it is a good idea for emergency managers to have at least a basic understanding.  In researching this topic, I came across the NWS Warning Decision Training Branch and the resources they offer, and we are very glad they accepted our invitation to join us today.

[Slide 1]

Now it is my pleasure to introduce today’s speaker:  Andrew Wood works with the University of Oklahoma (OU) Cooperative Institute for Mesoscale Meteorological Studies (CIMMS) on assignment with the Training Branch. Andy has led the Dual-Polarization Radar Training for NWS Partner outreach efforts for the past four years.

Please see today’s Background Page for further biographical information and links to related resources that will be mentioned during the presentation today.  

Welcome Andy, and thank you very much for taking the time to be with us again today. I now turn the floor over to you to start us off please.


Andy Wood:  I’m very glad to be here today.  As Amy said I work for the Cooperative Institute for Mesoscale Meteorological Studies at the University of Oklahoma and I am co-located with the Warning Decision Training Branch and I do a lot of work with them in developing their training.  

I want to talk to you a little bit today about WDTB and some of the resources we have available online that emergency managers might find useful in particular talking about our Dual-Polarization Radar Training efforts.  

[Slide 2]

You can see this motley crew here is our branch and we are a mixture of federal, contractor and University of Oklahoma employees.  What we do with the Warning Decision Training Branch is develop and deliver training with the whole integrated process of warnings in the National Weather service.  I’ll get into some of the details of that in a little bit. We really do try to look at the process as a whole.

[Slide 3]

That is a nice little mission statement but when it gets into the actual practice of what we really do we teach the science, technology and human factors of radar interpretation as well as the general warning process.  You would think talking about radar that it would specifically be severe weather warning operations—which we do a lot of, that’s kind of our bread and butter—but we do quite a bit also with flash flood warning operations as well as winter weather warning operations.  Our mantra so to speak is when we develop our training we work very much on base data interpretation and in doing so helping forecasters build expertise and maintain situational awareness during warning operations.

[Slide 4]

To give you an overview, WDTB is part of the Office of Climate, Water and Weather Services (OCCWS) which is located in Weather Service Headquarters.  We are one of three federal agencies in OCCWS.  The Warning Decision Training Branch is located in Normal, Oklahoma.

There is also the Forecast Decision Training Branch in Boulder, Colorado as well as the National Weather Service Training Center in Kansas City.  In addition to those three federal agencies we also have a partnership with COMET up in Boulder where they also develop quite a bit of training that gets incorporated into Weather Service training.

That is the big umbrella of the Weather Service Training division so you can have all of that in perspective.

[Slide 5]

We do science and technology as well as human factors training.  The Dual-Pol (ed. note: pronounced as dual pole) training is a good example of melding the science and technology training of what we do.  With the Dual-Pol training—it is Dual-Polarization Technology and a lot of us meteorologists call it Dual-Pol. You will probably hear me go back and forth between the two quite a bit. It is kind of a short hand thing to say it that way,

The Dual-Polarization Technology upgrade is the biggest upgrade to the 88D since it was first fielded in the nineties.  It was a big process to try to identify what training was needed, how we were going to deliver it, what was going to be the scope of it and I’ll get more into those details in a little bit.  That is a prime example of the type of science and technology training that we do.

[Slide 6]

We talk about human factors and when you talk about a science agency in the government some people may think—why are you focusing on human factors?  Human factors are a really big part of the warning process.  We have done quite a bit of work with root cause analysis and post mortems of different events.

For instance with tornadic events we have found through working with forecast offices that when you look at the factors that contribute to tornado events and missed events, human factors are a significant portion of what can be talked to and corrected that might help prevent these missed events in the future.

Certainly science and technology are parts of the puzzle but human factors are really a big part of it.  We try to emphasize that as much as we can when it is relevant.

[Slide 7]

To provide an example of what we do in terms of human factors training—one of the courses that we developed this year is “Communicating Risks in High Impact Events”.  

What we’ve done is talk with forecast offices and taken their stories and linked them together and tried to put that into the context of the broader crisis communication cycle—how they can better work with partners like you with the emergency management community and other communities as well—and trying to do a better job communicating what we know in a way that is relevant to you.

A lot of times doing this type of training can be challenging because it is really about communication and getting to know who you are working with and building those relationships.  As you’ll see in the types of training we do that is not always easy to do especially for those of us in the technology field.

It has been a learning process as we built up the expertise in that area.

[Slide 8]

In addition to focusing on science, technology and human factors our ultimate goal is to impact warning performance in a positive way.  How do we do that?  Our focus tends to be to look at what are the outcomes we want to accomplish and then build learning objectives off of that and also to a degree build our performance objectives off of that as well.

One example and I think this came from one of our service assessments during a flash flood event that was pretty big.  I think it impacted the most of the Southeast a couple of years ago.  We were looking at ways weather forecasters could improve their performance and how they deliver their products.

[Slide 9]

For instance, one of the big things that have come along in the last few years is the use of flash flood emergency wording in a flash flood warning product.  One of the things that was found as a result of that service assessment is that there were more events that could be classified in a way that using that language would be beneficial to partners then was actually being used.

That tool was being under-utilized.  In the training we put together we tried to clarify when it was appropriate to use that type of wording.  Lo and behold after that training was released there was a big bump-up to probably a more appropriate level because of that.  That is one way we impacted performance based on training.  We try to focus in on things like that as much as we can to help you all.

[Slide 10]

In terms of the type of training and how we reach people we utilized a lot of techniques.  Most of you are probably used to the old in-residence training.  I think that is still most people’s favorite way to attend training and participate but as you can see it is really a small portion, at least in terms of students, of what we do.

A lot of that is related to cost and the way things are.  Twenty years ago when we did the original 88D training, that is how we did everything—in-residence.  Now it is a really much smaller subset.  We do rely more on instructor led training much like these webinars.  We do quite a bit of that here.  

Pretty much our bread and butter is web-based training which is how, when we need to reach the entire Weather Service forecast community, we do it as well as developing simulations for working different types of events.  Every forecaster who has warning responsibility is supposed to complete four simulations per year.  That is another way we can reach the community as a whole.

It is very time intensive.  So we reach everybody but it is still not always the easiest way to get to everybody.  The web-based modules tend to be our bread and butter in terms of providing the most breadth of training we have available.

[Slide 11]

That sort of thing is actually good for you all though. That means a lot of the training we have is available online that people can take.  I just put up a handful of examples of training that certainly may be applicable to the emergency management community.  Some of them are things like the Dual-Polarization Radar Training and I have that linked there.

Some of it is also related to the human factors training we do.  One course we have done in the past few years is the integrated warning team which is based on work we have done at different conferences where we really tried to get the Weather Service forecasters, the emergency managers and the media to try on different roles so you walk a mile in the other person’s shoes and get a better understanding of what their job is like and what they need to do.

We developed training on that.  We also have the course I mentioned earlier about communicating risks in high impact events.  Certainly that could be beneficial to you all because you can see what we are training our own staff about you and your needs during these types of events.  You can certainly see how we are doing things.

Other things that may be a little more science and technology based—EF scale training—certainly that is something that may be significant to a lot of you who deal with severe weather and tornados.  In particular I know this would be useful with the Weather Service when they are going out to survey an event.

If you have a good rudimentary understanding of the EF scale and how it works we can benefit from you knowing what area is most likely going to have the highest rating so we can streamline the process of where to send people to survey an event and find out where the worst damage is and it helps us to stay out of your hair. That way we can see what is bad, report it to who we need to and stay out of your way as much as possible.  I think there is some mutual benefit there.   

Lastly something that I don’t know if a lot of people understand is the role that wind farms play in data quality with the radar. We’ve put together a briefing.  It is really more for the winds energy community to help them understand but I also think it is something that emergency managers might benefit from especially as more and more wind farms start popping up around the country.  You may see some data quality issues and not quite understand what is going on in those areas.  You see what might impact understanding your weather data around those wind farms.  That might be really helpful.

[Slide 12]

That is an overview of WDTB and what we do.  Now I want to talk a little bit about our Dual-Pol Training Initiative.  As I said earlier, Dual-Polarization Technology and Dual-Pol are interchangeable terms.  For the meteorologist in me it is too easy to refer back to acronyms and technical speech so I apologize for going back and forth between them.  I try to spell that out as best I can.

The Dual-Polarization technology upgrade to 88D is the most significant change to the radar since it was originally fielded.  One of the challenges to it is all the radar data and products you had before are still there.  The Dual-Polarization Technology is just an add-on to what we had before.  

In theory you could keep doing what you did before and you should see almost no impact based on Dual-Pol but you have all these additional products that are available.  It is a process of trying to get people to take that new data and integrate it into how they are already working.  There are benefits to that because it allows you to take things baby-step wise and piece by piece add things.

It is also one of those situations that whenever you are confronted with something new like this and you can keep doing things the way you used to do them it is really easy to do that so people may not necessarily gravitate to this new information no matter how helpful it is.  There are pros and cons there with this.

[Slide 13]

Just to give you an understanding of where we are at with the Dual-Pol upgrade—I have this map of the sites around the country.  The red sites are the radars that have already been upgraded.  You can see most of the country has been upgraded.  Most of the sites that are left are either in the Central U.S., the Midwest or Hawaii, Alaska and some other locations.

The gray dots are the sites that are currently down being upgraded.  The blue sites are the one that are left to be upgraded over the next several months.  You can see the area in the South Central part of the U.S. is where the upgrades are currently happening.

[Slide 14]

When we started working on the training solution for Dual-Pol and how we were going to reach everybody and train them one of the things we realized very early on was yes the weather community was going to need this training but we really needed to take a look at partners and what we were going to do for them.

The last time we tried to put together a training initiative of this size was back in the nineties with the original radar.  We realized that this is a different world.  There is so much more information available. Users are going to have much better access to this data although it has been a little slow going to this point but it is definitely easier for users outside the Weather Service to access radar data now than it was back then.  We realized we needed to provide as much information to people so that as this data became available they might be able to use it in a positive way.

We have our Weather Service Operations course but I was going to talk about our partner’s training in that initiative.

[Slide 15]

Even in that role when we talk about training to partners we realized we had two different needs.  We have trained meteorologists outside the Weather Service and how we would provide training to them but we also have non-meteorologist decision makers which a lot of the emergency management community fit into that role.  

They are fairly savvy and they have experience with radar data but they may not necessarily have the same meteorological background as a trained meteorologist.  So we needed to provide relevant training to both of those communities and help them as much as we could.  We realized early on that even in this role we were still going to have two different training solutions we needed.

[Slide 16]

What we decided to do for the trained meteorologists is we made the same course that was available for the Weather Service forecasters available to them.  The one thing we needed to do was create a separate introduction to the course because the media and other private companies have different interfaces for looking at weather data and differences in mission and whatnot that the Weather Service is going to take for granted.  We needed to highlight those differences.

As they went through the course they would understand those things and realize, “Some of this may not be one hundred percent applicable to me and my job but it is going to be fairly close.”

[Slide 17]

In terms of partners that was going to be a different animal.  We realized we had to focus more on what Dual-Polarization Technology is.  Unlike most science training where the focus tends to start at the base science level as a fundamental and build up we actually reversed it and focused on the benefits of the technology and use that as a foundation to build off of, so people may not start off right away trying to interpret the data but at least you have an understanding of what it is and why it is important and then kind of build to the actual products from there.

One of the things that is important especially with some of the benefits that come along with Dual-Pol that are significant, we also wanted to make sure people understand what aspects of the radar hadn’t changed.  There are certain limitations that are significant that people need to realize are still there.  We tried to highlight both of those things.

As an end result after all that we tried to at least provide a few basic applications for non-meteorologist who might want to use this data—just to highlight some of what this is.

[Slide 18]

If nothing else for the emergency management community Dual-Polarization Technology helps because it helps the Weather Service do a better job.  It will help them provide better service to you.  It gives them a lot more confidence about certain things they are looking at, especially things like hail, during winter weather events and even tornadic events.  There are a lot of things where we have already seen significant improvement that helps forecasters understand what is going on better and help them change how they communicate what they know to partners.  

Some experienced EMs may be able to make use of this data in the right circumstances. Our guidance to you is the most important thing about Dual-Pol is you have to use it in context of other radar products.  If you are comfortable using reflectivity and velocity whenever you are looking at Dual-Polarization products, whether it is base data or algorithms, you need to look at them in context of what you are comfortable with reflectivity and velocity.

It is also important to know their limitations especially when you are talking about things like winter weather and where snow and rain are being indicated in the radar products; understanding some of the physical limitations that radar has is really important when it comes to determining precipitation type at the ground.

As with all things it is important when working with the Weather Service to trust your local experts in terms of communication and information sharing.  While a lot of offices are still coming up to speed—obviously some offices still don’t have Dual-Pol in their area—they are going through training and getting experience on a daily basis with the new data.  I think they can help you out with some of this if you are taking on using this data on a regular basis.

[Slide 19]

In terms of our partner training for non-meteorologists, some of the things we have in there we talk a little bit about how the Dual-Pol Radar works.  We try to keep things where they are no technical.  I use some slide shows of images of radar sending out a beam, how it can perceive precipitation—it can have a variety of precipitation there as that radar pulse gets reflected back.

In highlighting differences, say that the old legacy radar data which gave you information about size because it would scan thing horizontally, versus Dual-Pol which gives you more information about the general shape of precipitation as well as the variety because it scans both horizontally and vertically.  That additional information helps better understand things because of that.

[Slide 20]

We also try to talk about the benefits.  We try to keep things relatively clear and focus on a few things that are the most important to partner community.  In terms of building expertise it is going to take time.  We see down the road in several years where all forecasters are going to be able to use this data and we are going to have these clear benefits.  

Forecasters are still learning.  There is a bit of a learning curve that comes with Dual-Pol.  Some of these benefits are in the process of being worked out.  Last year because we had such a mild winter I think forecasters felt like they lost the year because there were so few winter events, especially with where the radars were situated, that we didn’t get as much expertise last winter as we would have liked with Dual-Pol out in the field.

Hopefully after this winter things will be a lot better and people will be more comfortable using this data.  There are things like that happening.  It is going to be the same thing with tornados.  Last year was not the most active tornado year.  Certain places that had them are a lot more comfortable with it like the Southeast with some of the outbreaks they had.  

There are other parts of the country where they didn’t have any severe weather tornado-wise at all.  It may take them a couple of years before they have some events to really feel like they got the expertise to move forward.

[Slide 21]

Talking about that—I chose this slide just as an example of a tornadic debris signature.  It became a hot topic last year with forecasters.  It is something you all probably need to know especially those of you—depending on what your media market is like and how much they break in.  You are going to start hearing more about this in the media this spring.

Some of the providers of weather graphics to TV stations are trying to come up with ways of automating detection of tornadic debris signature so you will probably see icons and things like that where they start talking about debris signatures and ‘ok we’re confirming tornados here’.  There may be a learning curve on the media side as well as the emergency manager side.

You are not going to know if you have local chase crews that go out if this is a person that is spotting it or if you are basing it on radar.  There is going to be a lot there you will want to be aware of as this becomes more and more prevalent. From your point of view it is one of the things—I know in our training we are very optimistic about debris signatures and how they will help.

It certainly does not diminish the need for local spotters.  They are still by far the most important thing we have in terms of spotting tornados and tracking just because of some of the limitations of radar, but with the Dual-Pol tornadic signature in areas where you don’t have spotters available or where the tornado is not really visible because it is rain wrapped or it is at night.

It is going to be most beneficial as storms are closer to the radar but what we are finding is that the range at which tornadic debris can be detected using Dual-Pol data is a little better than we thought.  We are still not very good at hard and fast rules about distance because a lot of that is going to vary on some other factors.  It is fairly promising out say about fifteen nautical miles from the radar that if there is significant debris lofted by a tornado we would be able to detect it by radar.

[Slide 22]

We also want to talk about some of the radar limitations.  For instance we like to remind people that with radars they don’t necessarily see at the ground.  Far away from radar you are not going to see things very well that are near to the ground just likewise close to the radar you are not going to see things that are high aloft.  We try to include that in the information and training—just a handful of things just to remind people of that.

[Slide 23]

That is just a snippet of what is in the training.  In terms of the partner training the total duration is about one or two hours for the non-meteorologist.  It is approximately six hours for the meteorologist outside the Weather Service.  That gives you an example of that.

In summary the Warning Decision Training Branch provides weather training on the NWS warning process and the tools forecasters use during that.  There is a heavy focus on radar but there are other technology things we train on related to that.  Most of the training we do is available online. If you go to our website you can find that.

Emergency managers may find some of the training we do useful.  Some of you may find it more useful than others.  It depends on your location and what your needs are.  I talked a little about the Dual-Polarization technology upgrade just because that is something that is going to affect most of you in some form or another in the emergency management community.

[Slide 24]

There is my contact information and I’ll be glad to answer any questions you may have.

Amy Sebring: Thank you very much Andy,  that was a very good overview. Now If we do have questions or comments from our audience members we are ready to begin now. So please enter your comment or question at any time.

[Audience Questions & Answers]

Amy Sebring:  Is the training something you can stop and go back to?

Andy Wood:  It is.  The way the partner training is set up is there are three lessons.  The first lesson is the longer one.  It is about 45 minutes to an hour long.  I tried to chunk it in a way that if you did one section of it and you needed to take a break you could.  The software, if you are doing it on the same machine one of the things that is nice is when you take it, even if you close the browser and you come back to it, it should ask you if you want to continue where you were.

As long as there aren’t multiple people taking it on the same machine it should help you get back to where you were when you first took it.

Michael Boldosser: Briefly, what effects do wind farms have on radar depictions?

Andy Wood: That actually is a great question.  Wind farms, especially if you have them in your area, they are very big and very reflective.  The radar picks up on them very well.  One of the problems is the radar engineers are pretty good at identifying ground clutter and filtering it out of the radar data that gets sent out.

Part of the problem is to filter out the clutter usually the two things you need is for them to be stationary and to have no velocity component in the data.  It needs to not be moving and the data needs to suggest in the velocity data that it is not moving—the way the algorithms are written to remove that signal from the data, it needs that.

The problem with wind farms is when the turbines are spinning they do not appear stationary.  They appear to be moving.  As wind farms come online the forecasters have to create special zones around the wind farm to make it filter out the signal as much as possible.  Unfortunately during certain types of weather you can still see symptoms of the wind farms pop up and be visible in the radar data.

Depending on your location and where these things are it can cause problems.  If the wind farm is close enough to the radar even though you may be mitigating impacts of the wind farm in that particular location than can be some beam blockage issues downstream if it is very close to the radar.

Amy Sebring:  Does the Dual-Pol help identify flocks of migrating birds those kinds of things?

Andy Wood:  It actually does.  There are some ornithology people who are interested in looking at Dual-Pol data.  This will sound strange but there is a lot of stuff we saw on radar in the past that we didn’t think was weather so we ignored it.  Now with Dual-Pol data it helps you look at it and wonder what it is really.

With Dual-Pol data—if it is an area where you think it is birds the data will look different whether the birds are flying to or from the radar or if they are flying parallel to how the radar beam is sampling.  Even the shape of the bird, whether it is sampling it head-on or sampling it looking at the wings flapping up and down, you can see a difference in the data from that.

Timothy Marshall: How do mountains and hills affect the dual-pol radar?
Andy Wood: They are affected in similar ways to the conventional radar data.  You do get some beam blockage that can affect the data downstream of mountains and hills.  You do have that problem there.  Both the base data and algorithms can be impacted from that.

There is at least one product called ‘specific differential phase’—without trying to get too technical it is a proxy for how much liquid water is in the atmosphere where the radar is sampling so it is a very useful product for heavy rain or possibly flash flooding.  The one thing that is really good about that product is that it tends to be immune from some of these beam blockage issues.  It will still be impacted somewhat downstream of mountains just because of sampling issues but it is more resilient than other radar products just because of how it is computed.  

The other big base products for Dual-Polarization Technology are ‘differential reflectivity’ which looks at the difference between the vertical and horizontal reflectivity. If you look at that at all you will notice that the differential reflectivity near hilly terrain will appear very negative which would indicate that you have something oriented vertically that the radar is sampling, which would make sense when you are talking about hills and mountains.  So that is something you might see as artifacts when you look at that data. Those are probably two of the bigger things.

Amy Sebring:  Does Dual-Pol help improve the accuracy of estimating rainfall amounts?

Andy Wood:  Sort of. In the big scheme of things it should help significantly.  What we have found so far, both from research on Dual-Polarization radars before these were fielded and in what has been put out there, is that radar detected rain that is below the melting layer where temperatures were freezing, when it samples that precipitation there seems to be improvement in the amounts that are detected.  

Where things start getting tricky is when you start getting into the bright band and especially above the bright band.  Part of that is the algorithm that was developed using the Dual-Pol data is still in its infancy and it really just needs more data and more research to be done on how to tune it, especially tune it locally, to get the best quality estimates.  I think that benefit will be there but it will be a few years before it gets there.  Especially during the winter season it seems to have the biggest problems.  When the freezing level is very low so it is sampling snow and frozen precipitation higher up and it is mostly rain at the surface then your amounts can get skewed.

Amy Sebring:  They will conduct more research to collect data on actual rainfall accumulations and compare them and use it to fine-tune it?

Andy Wood:  They are hoping to do that over the next few years.  With funding situations being what they are it may take longer.  That is their number one priority in terms of future upgrades.

Amy Sebring:  Has there been any outreach to the spotter community about this?

Andy Wood:  There has been some.  The training we did—we tried to take more of the national tact to make stuff available.  We tried to reach out through some of the typical Weather Service vehicles.  There is a newsletter that they put out called “Aware” where we have tried to reach out.  

Because so many of the local offices—the warning coordinator meteorologist is in charge of that—we have tried to work with them as well for their spotter community.  They are leading the way on it.  We are trying to provide materials for them to do their job.

Larry Lovering: What is the difficulty of detecting virga of rain or snow versus the precipitation falling all the way to the ground?
Andy Wood: Larry asks a great question.  Virga is precipitation that is falling but isn’t reaching the ground.  It is a difficult issue.  It is a limitation with radar that is always going to be there.  

It is one of the points we make in the training because it is not even just when you have precipitation falling and whether it is reaching the ground but also the issue of with Dual-Pol and precipitation type, you may be detecting frozen precipitation (snow) at a certain location but because the atmosphere is different below the radar beam it is actually melted or sleet at the surface.

Those are things where forecasters are going to have to take radar data with surface observations with model data and all of that to help them understand what they are seeing and taking that message and communicating it to the public.  It is a difficulty but the thing about Dual-Pol is that it gives you more information at the point the radar is sampling so it helps the forecaster.  Virga is going to be virga and there will always be issues with that if you don’t have surface observations in that area where the virga might be occurring.  Even with things like precipitation type the Dual-Pol data helps but there will always be limitations there.

Tricia Chappell: How does Dual-Pol enhance or complement "Doppler" technology?

Andy Wood:  With the Doppler radar you have—even pre-dating Doppler reflectivity data but you also had velocity information.  It complements it quite a bit in helping understand what we are seeing in a storm.  For lack of better way to do it I think an analogy helps a little.

I tend to think of pre-Dual-Pol when you had a Doppler radar it was like a CAT scan and a Dual-Pol it is like a MRI.  It is not the same and it is not conclusive information every time but it gives you a clearer picture of what is going on.  The Dual-Pol does not necessarily improve the velocity information specifically but it gives you a better understanding of the storm features you are looking at. You have a better understanding of what is going on and getting it to make sense.  Given more time I might be able to think of specific examples but that is it in a nutshell.

Lori Wieber: Can you speak a bit more on how industrial stack discharges or hazardous material plumes can impact radar reading or perhaps be tracked for response in emergency events?

Andy Wood: I don’t know of that many specific instances of industrial releases.  What I can say is I have a bit of experience with fires and smoke plumes and Dual-Polarization data is really helpful with smoke plumes and fires.

The nature of data for a fire is very different from precipitation.  It really stands out well in Dual-Pol data.  So if you had an industrial release that was either close to the radar—say there was a significant ash component or particulate component to it and it got up high enough where the radar could sample it— Dual-Pol can help it spotting it.  I just haven’t seen a case of it yet. I would be optimistic but part of me wants to see it before I know it is for sure.  

Dual-Pol is very good with fire and military chaff if you have issues with that in your area.  Earlier I mentioned with wildlife—it is very good at identifying areas of non-precipitation from precipitation especially when they are going on at the same time. We had a case where we could track a fire as a line of thunderstorms moved past it.  You could still see the fire even though it was raining around it.

Amy Sebring:  What kind of feedback have you been getting Andy?  What kind of participation are you getting from private sector meteorologists?

Andy Wood:  It’s one of those things—and I totally understand—most of my interaction has been with media meteorologists and they really appreciate the training and understanding it better.  They are just struggling with how to communicate the information in a way they are used to.  I understand because if I had a good clear-cut answer I would provide it to them.  I just don’t necessarily know. With at least one of the providers has been tinkering with an automated way of identifying debris signatures and making it where it would be easily identifiable so TV meteorologists could point those out, like if they are zoomed into a storm and a debris signature was there they would have some sort of icon they could put up.

I think that may start showing up this spring.  It has been awhile since I’ve heard about it.  When you start talking about private sector it gets a little muddy.  I have at least seen an early prototype of what something like that might look like at one point.  I don’t know if they have moved forward with that or not.

Some of these products, say with even something like a fire, I wouldn’t be surprised if TV meteorologists start showing some of this stuff on TV if it is something that can easily be shown in an image or two.  The hard thing is that context is so important with this data it can be difficult to show what is going on in one or two images.  That is part of where the problem comes in with some of this.

Amy Sebring:   Let’s mention the Storm of the Month webinars.

Andy Wood: We started doing Storm of the Month after the Dual-Pol sites were being fielded so we’ve done fifteen of them so far.  It is a way of doing information sharing much like these webinars.  They are short.  We try to keep them at about twenty minutes. The live sessions are only available to Weather Service staff but we record them and put them online so anybody could review them.

We try to get people to focus on either a single storm or people may focus on two or three storms but maybe a specific element of that storm related to Dual-Pol Technology.  I think in one we had a fire and a flash flood shortly thereafter so they looked at impacts of that.  There are a variety of things.  We focus some on tornadic debris signatures, fires, flash flooding and even a dust storm in Phoenix that filled up part of one.

We try to introduce variety and try to make them timely in terms of the season we do.  We try to keep them short.  One thing we do, it takes longer to post process, but we record the primary session and as people go through the questions and answers we try to develop some add-on information if something comes up so that there is additional learning that maybe didn’t come out clearly in the Q&A.

We might have been able to summarize it in a way that you can understand this or be aware of information.  We try to make it a little more value-added as well.

Amy Sebring:   Going back to the Training Branch in general, do you know of any particular projects coming up in the future that you might be working on?

Andy Wood:  With the Dual-Polarization Technology upgrade—that has been a big endeavor for our branch.  Another one that may not impact the emergency management community a lot is the Weather Service is upgrading their display systems.  We are doing technology training on that.  We have a lot of training we do on an annual cycle. We have for new employees a course that takes about 100 hours of training to complete.  We update that a lot.  

We have follow-on to that training that we do.  We have several employees that have significant partner background.  My office mate here used to work for our state climatological service and did a lot of work with training emergency managers on radar interpretation with them and he always brings the emergency management perspective into what he does and helps us .

We try to keep you guys in mind when we are doing things a lot.  If anything else comes up that would be applicable to you I’d be glad to come back.

Amy Sebring:  This new technology is in the process of being deployed.  The folks in the local weather forecasts offices and weather coordinating meteorologists are doing this kind of outreach on a local level.  In addition to your contact information that is another person you may want to get in touch with.

Andy Wood:  For a lot of people their main outreach activities will be kicking into gear in the next several months so this is a great time to reach out to them.  A lot of them will be severe storm spotter classes but now is a really busy time for them and they will be trying to reach out to everybody.  There will be a lot for them to contact them about in the near future.


Amy Sebring: Very good. We will wrap it up for today. On behalf of Avagene, myself, and all our participants today, thank you very much Andy for being with us today and sharing this valuable information.  We wish you continued success with your efforts in the future.

Andy Wood:  Thank you very much. I am glad that I could participate. If people have questions my email is in there. They can send me an email if they think of something in a couple of days from now about the presentation I will be glad to answer it.

Amy Sebring: Our next program is scheduled for January 23rd when our topic will be a new report published by the National Academies Press, Disaster Resilience: A National Imperative.  Our guest will be the chair of the authoring committee and Director of the University of South Carolina’s Hazards and Vulnerability Research Institute, Susan L. Cutter. She has presented for us in the past and we are delighted she could join us again. Please make plans to join us then.

Have a great afternoon everyone!  We are adjourned.