NOAA 99-R509
Contact: Keli Tarp


The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA)/National Severe Storms Laboratory has formed a partnership with the Georgia Tech Research Institute (GTRI) and the National Weather Service (NWS) to improve severe weather warnings for residents of Georgia.

NOAA's National Severe Storms Laboratory (NSSL) was recently awarded a grant from GTRI working under contract to the Georgia Emergency Management Agency (GEMA) and the Federal Emergency Management Agency to deploy their prototype Warning Decision Support System (WDSS) in the NWS forecast office in Peachtree City, Ga. and in GTRI's laboratories. The WDSS will enhance the capability of the NWS to warn of severe and hazardous weather and to respond to weather related emergencies, according to DeWayne Mitchell, a meteorology researcher with NSSL located in Norman, Okla.

WDSS provides a set of tools that help forecasters make more efficient, effective and timely decisions on whether to warn the public of tornadoes, severe thunderstorms and flash floods. It includes advanced image processing, artificial intelligence, neural network and other algorithms that utilize Doppler radar data, which is integrated with other weather sensor data to provide guidance to forecasters. Another important component of the system is the display and how the data and information are presented to the forecasters.

Typically, these NSSL-developed warning decision support tools and display concepts are tested, evaluated and enhanced based on user feedback from forecasters in a number of NWS forecast offices across the country. When concepts are validated, they are transferred to various NWS operational systems. The algorithms and display concepts in the prototype WDSS being installed in Georgia are three to ten years ahead of what is in the present NWS operational systems.

A unique feature of the WDSS-II is its multiple Doppler radar capabilities. The system ingests data from Doppler radars in several locations and integrates it with satellite and other weather sensor data to provide warning guidance information to forecasters for their entire area of warning responsibility.

The first phase of the project began April 14 with the installation of the WDSS in the NWS Peachtree forecast office. Connections to two more WSR-88D (Doppler radar) sites in Hytop, Ala. and Greer, S.C. will also be completed. The project's second phase will include the installation of an early prototype of the next generation of the system, WDSS-II (Integrated Information), in the forecast office and at the GTRI research facilities in Cobb County by June 30.

This project will allow NSSL to work with GTRI and the National Weather Service to continue to enhance the prototype WDSS-II and to tune the algorithms and displays to the Georgia environment and to the needs of the Georgia NWS forecast offices, allowing Georgia emergency managers and other Georgia organizations to be provided with important information necessary for rapid response to weather emergencies.

"The goal of this project is to begin a long-term collaboration between NSSL and GTRI that benefits the citizens of Georgia, based on the Peachtree City NWSFO
having access to the state-of-the-art warning decision tools before they become available in AWIPS or WSR-88D," Mitchell said. "Eventually, this collaborative effort will enhance warnings not only for Georgia but for the entire nation."

The project was initiated by a Governor's Task Force that examined the state's weather warning system after a tornado struck Georgia's Hall and White counties in 1998.

"Members of the task force realized they could enhance the state's warning system by utilizing the WDSS-II system," Mitchell said. "Also, they realized the computing expertise of the Georgia Tech Research Institute combined with NSSL's meteorological expertise could further improve the system."

The WDSS was utilized extensively during the 1996 Olympics at the Olympic Weather Support Office in Peachtree City, Ga. and was rated the most useful tool for short-term predictions and warnings issued by forecasters.

The National Severe Storms Laboratory works in partnership with the National Weather Service to advance the understanding of weather processes through a balanced program of research to improve forecasting and warning techniques, development of operational applications and transfer of understanding, techniques, and applications to public and private agencies.
Information about the National Severe Storms Laboratory can be found on the Internet at: