Can’t stop, won’t stop: Researchers continue to improve operational products

CIMMS Research Associate Steven Martinaitis in the San Juan, Puerto Rico, NOAA National Weather Service forecast office.

Hazardous weather research does not stop once the finalized product is in the hands of NOAA National Weather Service forecasters and decision makers. Research may continue to update and improve current products, like those with the NOAA National Severe Storms Laboratory Multi-Radar Multi-Sensor system.

MRMS was developed to produce severe weather and precipitation products aimed at improving decision-making capabilities for severe weather forecasts, warnings, flooding, aviation and numerical weather prediction. Since it was deployed operationally in 2014, more than 100 products from MRMS are available to local forecast offices, river forecast centers, and other NOAA entities.

Research Associate Steven Martinaitis visited Puerto Rico to talk, observe, and evaluate how MRMS products can operate for forecasters on the island.

“We are bringing new domains outside the continental United States online for MRMS, and we need to see what each platform does so we can better tailor products for that specific region,” said Martinaitis, a research associate with the University of Oklahoma Cooperative Institute for Mesoscale Meteorological Studies.

During his two days embedded with the forecast office in San Juan, Martinaitis collaborated with meteorologists about the current MRMS system along with upcoming products, like FLASH.

Developed by NOAA researchers, FLASH — short for the Flooded Locations and Simulated Hydrographs Project — combines real-time rainfall estimates with real-time surface models to supply forecasters better information and more confidence with which to issue flash flood warnings.

“We need to find a better way of estimating precipitation,” Martinaitis said, who also supports work at NOAA’s NSSL. “This will better all decisions and help see where impacts might be to dams, rivers, streams — allowing emergency personnel and decision makers to help control water releases before and in response to events.”

Martinaitis will continue visits like he made in Puerto Rico throughout the fall. He’s conducted similar visits and research at the Southeast River Forecast Center in Georgia, the North Central RFC in Minnesota, and the West Gulf RFC in Texas.

“We need to see what works, what doesn’t work, and review where we can make the next advancements,” he said. “Science continues to evolve as weather evolves, and once a product becomes operational at the National Weather Service, we always want to know how to improve it or what should be next.”