Academic journal article T H E Journal (Technological Horizons In Education)

Using Technology to Train Weather Forecaster

Academic journal article T H E Journal (Technological Horizons In Education)

Using Technology to Train Weather Forecaster

Article excerpt

During the last decade, a revolution has occurred in weather forecasting. to view weather phenomena in ways and at a level of detail previously model predictions so that forecasters can analyze the information and new interpretation skills based on an up-to-date knowledge of meteorology, dealt with. However, advances in the science occur almost daily, and forecasters New satellites, Doppler radars, and other observing tools allow forecasters unimagined. Sophisticated computer systems integrate these observations with display it in a multitude of combinations. To use this data effectively requires particularly at geographic scales much smaller than forecasters have previously must frequently adjust their understanding of how weather works.

At the beginning of its modernization process, the National Weather Service (NWS) recognized the need for a comprehensive professional development program. Federal budget reductions also required that the training program be as cost-effective as possible. In 1988, the NWS turned for help to the University Corporation for Atmospheric Research (UCAR), this country's premier research facility in the atmospheric sciences. A year later, the NWS parent organization, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, and UCAR established the Cooperative Program for Operational Meteorology, Education and Training (COMET) to help update the scientific knowledge of its forecasters. Additional support for the COMET Program comes from the U.S. Air Force and the Navy.

The COMET Program's mission covers a broad spectrum of activities beyond professional development for the sponsors' forecasters (1,000 NWS forecasters and 5,000 military forecasters). Rather than describe all of these, this paper focuses on three areas in which the COMET Program has used technology over the last 10 years to create a comprehensive education and training environment to meet weather forecasters' needs. These three areas are our Residence Program, Distance Learning Program, and a Web-based facility that provides support for NWS trainers.

The COMET Residence Program

To ensure that its training is tailored for local conditions, the NWS has created a training position (called the Science Operations Officer or SOO) in each of the 121 local weather forecast offices. In addition to other duties, including producing forecasts themselves, the SOOs develop training plans for their staff, create and deliver local training, and adapt other training materials for their particular office's needs. Because the SOOs are critical to the NWS professional development efforts, the COMET Residence Program has concentrated mainly on training these trainers, as well as others from local NWS offices and those in the military who have specific training responsibilities.

One of the unique features of the Residence Program is that it has no regular in-house faculty. Courses are designed and coordinated by COMET staff, in consultation with lead instructors (typically a university professor and a SOO). Most of the course instructors are experts from research institutions, universities and the NWS.

Some of the visiting instructors lecture for only an hour or two, while others teach several days. By virtue of their expertise, these people are busy, and flying to Boulder for a single lecture can be a major interruption in their regular work. About five years ago we began using video teleconferencing to help experts who could not travel here to participate in the classes. A PictureTel Concorde 4500 system with a dedicated T1 line projects the instructor's image from the classroom video projector onto a large screen. The remote instructor can see and hear the class on his or her own PictureTel system. Images and graphics are displayed by using a document camera, focusing the camera on a whiteboard, or showing electronic presentation files stored on a local PC. We annually host between 25 and 30 weeks of classes, and one or two instructors typically participate via teleconference each week. …

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