International collaboration benefits US, European forecasters

NOAA National Severe Storms Laboratory Researcher Adam Clark at the European Severe Storms Laboratory Testbed this summer.

Weather doesn’t stop at borders. Nowhere is this more clear than in Europe, where two researchers working at the NOAA National Severe Storms Laboratory went shoulder to shoulder with researchers in the European Severe Storms Laboratory Testbed this summer. The goal was to collaborate on forecast products and learn how NSSL technologies are used abroad.

“As scientists and meteorologists, we need to continue to talk because that’s how true knowledge transfer occurs,” said Darrel Kingfield, University of Oklahoma Cooperative Institute for Mesoscale Meteorological Studies researcher working at NSSL. “ESSL researchers came to work with us in the NOAA Hazardous Weather Testbed a couple of years ago and this year we went to them.”

Darrel Kingfield presenting at the European Severe Storms Laboratory Testbed this summer.

During its sixth year, the ESSL Testbed program evaluated forecasts for high-impact weather. Like the HWT, the ESSL testbed serves as a forum to stimulate interaction between product developers and operational forecasters from throughout Europe. Also, lectures from several local and international experts help testbed participants enhance their knowledge and skills.

Different geography, systems

Kingfield and NSSL Research Scientist Adam Clark each spent a full week at ESSL’s testbed. What struck them was the difference in geography between the United States and Europe. Clark said ingredients needed for severe weather come together much differently in Europe than the U.S.

“You have the Mediterranean Sea and the Alps and that affects much of their weather,” Clark said.

Adam Clark working in the European Severe Storms Laboratory Testbed.

Along with geographical differences, Clark and Kingfield learned about the different weather prediction and monitoring systems operated by each European country. A variety of forecasting tools and methods are used throughout Europe, from government operated to privatized systems. This results in data, forecasting and verification inconsistencies.

“For example, after a tornado occurs in the U.S., officials observe and record where it occurred and how severe it was,” Kingfield explained. “Europeans rarely go out and assess tornado damage after a storm. Those surveys are reserved for most damaging events.”

As a result, Europe’s tornado database is not nearly as complete as the United States.

Sharing tools and techniques
While in the testbed, Kingfield and Clark gazed upon a few familiar products.

“The German Weather Service is using a lot of the same techniques developed at NSSL to interpret radar data,” Kingfield said. Some European meteorologists use several products developed in the U.S. by NSSL and OU CIMMS researchers. For instance, one technique allows them to use radar data to visualize the possible track of a tornado based on the storm’s rotation.

Collaboration is an important tool for forecasters and researchers. Participation in ESSL’s testbed allows researchers like Kingfield and Clark to share new technologies, experience new techniques and learn new systems. Opportunities like this allow researchers to collaborate on new products and technology, ultimately leading to better forecasts and warnings for the American public.

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CIMMS Researcher Participates in European Testbed

Kingfield-ESSLDarrel Kingfield (CIMMS/NSSL) spent two weeks serving as a forecaster and instructor at the European Severe Storms Laboratory (ESSL) 2014 Testbed in Wiener Neustadt, Austria. In its third year, the goals of the ESSL Testbed program include the evaluation of techniques and algorithms to forecast convective high-impact weather. The testbed serves as a forum to stimulate interaction between product developers and operational forecasters from throughout Europe. Also, the testbed aims to enhance participants’ skills in forecasting high-impact weather through providing expert lectures from several local and international experts on a variety of meteorological topics.

Each day in the testbed consists of a sequence of verification activities, day 1-2 forecasts, forecast briefings, forecaster training, and issuing convective nowcasting products and/or day 3-5 forecasts. Products evaluated this year include:

  • Algorithms developed by the German Weather Service Deutscher Wetterdienst (DWD) for identifying and tracking mesocyclones, vertically integrated liquid, and regions of high azimuthal shear,

  • The integration of cloud-to-ground (CG) strikes and densities from the Vaisala Global Lighting Detection 360 network,

  • A system developed by the DWD providing automated warning decision guidance called NowCastMIX,

  • Short-range forecasts from the COSMO-DE model developed by the DWD, a high-resolution convection-permitting ensemble model,

  • An algorithm developed by SSAI-NASA that identifies overshooting thunderstorm tops.

In addition to participating in the forecasting and evaluation process, Darrel provided both seminars and hands-on demonstrations on storm and hazard identification using polarimetric radar, decision assistance tools used by National Weather Service forecast offices, and current/future NSSL research-to-operations initiatives including the Multi-Radar/Multi-Sensor (MR/MS) system, Forecasting a Continuum of Environmental Threats (FACETS), and Probabilistic Hazard Information (PHI).

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