Exploring AWIPS capabilities and methods at Center Weather Service Units (59)

David Tomalak, NWS Boulder/Denver, Boulder, CO



The National Weather Service (NWS) Center Weather Service Unit (CWSU) meteorologists provide support for the Federal Aviation Administration's (FAA's) air traffic management by relaying critical meteorological information for airports and airspace in the control center's area of responsibility. The CWSUs were formed as an indirect response to the devastating crash of Southern Airways flight 242 within a thunderstorm near Atlanta, Georgia in 1978. Since they were established, CWSU NWS meteorologists have directly supported aviation customers by providing detailed weather information 16 hours a day, 7 days a week from 21 offices nationwide. The CWSU mission is to provide the most accurate and dependable weather information to their FAA customers, both inside the control center and in the air, thereby supporting the safest and most efficient use of our nation's National Airspace System.

In a typical day, CWSU meteorologists perform many functions, but arguably none are more important than face-to-face briefings to air traffic controllers. These face-to-face briefings let the meteorologist convey a variety of tailored weather information to air traffic controllers using science, experience and a number of forecast tools. This is vital in helping FAA personnel safely and efficiently route traffic. Other functions of CWSU meteorologist's include producing and disseminating Center Weather Advisories (CWAs) and Meteorological Impact Statements (MISs).

One of the cornerstone tools CWSUs use for meteorological analysis and impact decision support services is the Common AWIPS Visualization Environment, or CAVE. Each CWSU has one AWIPS Remote Display (ARD) workstation on-site that runs a thin client version of CAVE. The Thin Client CAVE version of AWIPS is an extension of the same CAVE software that runs at the local weather forecast office (WFO), but is optimized to run on low bandwidth networks typical at a CWSU.

Over the past five years, the role of AWIPS Thin Client (ARD) has increased significantly at the CWSU. Additional capabilities and performance have allowed CWSU forecasters to expand and collaborate on new briefing techniques and tools to help optimize their services. These capabilities extend over a diverse air space over the continental United States, as well as Alaska, Hawaii, and even Pago Pago, American Samoa. This presentation will highlight a number of collaborative successes and explore new methods and capabilities that have significantly impacted the effectiveness of their mission. A few enhancements discussed include increased situational awareness, improved collaboration and decision support services, significantly improved network services, and performance enhancements.