Researchers utilize the cloud to train forecasters

Researchers and instructors took traditional National Weather Service Forecaster training to the cloud this year, virtually trekking thousands of miles to deliver instrumental knowledge, tools, and training.

The Radar & Applications Course (RAC) is hosted by NOAA’s Warning Decision Training Division with significant involvement by researchers from the University of Oklahoma Cooperative Institute for Mesoscale Meteorological Studies. This year the course was entirely virtual.

“We had forecasters from Alaska and Pennsylvania working together as if they were sitting side-by-side in a Weather Forecast Office, despite the fact they were 3,000 miles apart,” said Dale Morris, workshop instructor and researcher with OU CIMMS working at the WDTD.

A map of the United States. Across the map are colored bubbles and each bubble represents a workshop participant or instructor. The map and bubbles show the spatial diversity - from Alaska to New York.
A map of participants of the Radar & Applications Course-in-the-Cloud (RITC). This graphic highlights the spatial diversity of participants and instructors for three of four RITC workshops. (Graphic provided by Dale Morris, CIMMS/WDTD)

A virtual workshop setting required significant preparation, including a smaller instructor-to-student ratio to deliver effective remote instruction utilizing the cloud.

“From an educational standpoint, we have instructors also physically distributed and are effectively monitoring and coaching groups of students who are hundreds to thousands of miles away, while doing synchronized real-time exercises,” Morris said.

RAC-In-The-Cloud (RITC) is a flagship course for NWS forecasters issuing severe weather warnings. A cadre of eighteen WDTD and CIMMS staff conducted the workshops through teaching and providing technical and logistical support. The workshop and instructors allow forecasters to test themselves with challenging weather situations.

Learn more about forecaster training and tools used in RIC at cimms.ou.edu.