Spotlight on the Weather Partners: Warning Decision Training Branch

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Within every NOAA National Weather forecaster, and behind every critical decision-making process, lies the preparation and education provided by the Warning Decision Training Branch. With an expert staff of meteorologists, research associates, graphic designers, and IT specialists, this NOAA Weather Partner’s mission is to improve warning performance within NOAA’s National Weather Service.

Ed Mahoney, Chief, WDTB: We do this by infusing three things into the training operation, and that’s science, there’s technology, and then there’s a critical human factors element, that we also address.

Forecasters rely on NEXRAD radar when warning the public of hazardous weather conditions. The training they receive emphasizes accuracy, timeliness, and composure in their forecasting performance.

Kenneth James, Meteorologist, NWS: This training is always changing, because the science is always changing, so I think, in a very subtle way, it exposes everyone to the concept of change. It also allows us to improve as scientists, and to, I think, communicate more effectively, because a lot of us will be using the same knowledge.

The Warning Decision Training Branch provides training through multiple delivery systems. While traditional, in-residence training is still utilized, about ninety percent of training is now done via distance learning, over the Internet. Forecasters also train on the Weather Events Simulator, which displays weather scenarios in real time.

Ed Mahoney: One of the things in training that’s important to do is to not just tell, but also to allow them to apply what they’ve learned. The application is the critical element in learning how to use these new tools. The Weather Event Simulator is that tool. It allows the forecaster to go through an operationally representative environment, allows them to make decisions. As you go through the practice, using the Simulator, over and over again, when the real event occurs, they’re not going to have a panic moment, they’re going to be well-experienced and prepared for that moment.

Each year the Warning Decision Training Branch trains over two thousand students throughout NOAA’s National Weather Service. Recently, an advanced course on winter weather contributed to better forecasts.

Brad Grant, Team Leader, WDTB: We saw some pretty dramatic increases in performance of warning lead times for winter storm warnings, and also, we saw, in terms of accuracy, the actual probability of detection up around ninety-three percent, which was a pretty big increase from what they’ve seen in past years, and part of this could be attributed to some of the training that was accomplished by all of the forecasters.

From the classroom to forecast operations, the Warning Decision Training Branch plays a crucial role in NOAA’s mission to protect life and property.

Kenneth James: The training, the theory, it all comes together, and the more training, the more practice, I think, the more effective one becomes in a real time environment.

Ed Mahoney: The key impact of our training is to prepare those decision makers to make effective and correct decisions, to provide the maximum warning performance support to the public. That’s our ultimate goal. Performance improvement, that’s our mission.