Meteorologists with the Cooperative Institute for Mesoscale Meteorological Studies (CIMMS) at the University of Oklahoma have teamed with the National Weather Service’s (NWS) Warning Decision Training Division (WDTD) to train the newest generation of NWS weather forecasters. After completing a rigorous online training course on radar and severe weather signatures, the forecasters participate in a week-long “Radar and Applications Course” workshop at the National Weather Center (NWC) on the University of Oklahoma campus.
The workshop uses a unique, world-class laboratory, featuring new simulation technology developed by CIMMS scientists. The simulator uses data from archived weather events and replays the data minute-by-minute, as if the event were actually unfolding. The simulator also incorporates the same software forecasters use at their individual forecast offices.
During the workshop, forecasters use the simulator to learn how to better analyze severe storms, how to issue severe thunderstorm and tornado warnings, and how to work together in teams. The lab scenarios feature different types of exercises and simulations, depending on the objectives of a particular workshop session, ranging from storm analysis to managing the firehose of data available during a severe weather event. The workshop culminates with a series of multi-hour simulations where three forecasters act as a team at a simulated Weather Forecast Office. During the simulations, each group of forecasters is mentored and evaluated by a WDTD or CIMMS instructor.
This year, 61 new forecasters from 41 NWS forecast offices and supporting centers are participating in these training workshops held in March and April. When they return to their home offices, the forecasters are eased into the warning desk, having successfully developed warning expertise. They also have the opportunity to continue honing their warning skills on a version of the simulator that is deployed at each of the 122 weather forecast offices across the U.S.
The Warning Decision Training Division is one of five Federal NOAA Weather Partners housed at the NWC building, along with the National Severe Storms Laboratory, the NWS Norman Weather Forecast Office, the Storm Prediction Center, and the NEXRAD Radar Operations Center. CIMMS is a NOAA/OU cooperative institute, also housed at the NWC.