Storm of the Month increasing forecaster proficiency with radar upgrade

Dual-Pol imageThe recent radar upgrade to the nation’s weather radar system is a dramatic technology improvement that allows for a much more in-depth analysis of weather systems. User training for the new technology, called dual polarization, is being conducted by the NOAA National Weather Service Warning Decision Training Branch. The WDTB uses several interactive training methods such as live chats, Facebook applications, and their most successful approach, the Storm of the Month program.

Storm of the Month is a program for National Weather Service forecasters to share weather events with other offices and improve user proficiency. Forecast offices across the country sign up to present a weather event and discuss in a live online session how they have used dual-polarization to their benefit.  The peer-to-peer storytelling sessions are audio recorded, presented in a webinar format, and followed by a 15 minute question and answer session with the presenting forecasters. All Storm of the Month presentations are later uploaded to the Web site as virtual lessons. The audio recording is accompanied by a visual presentation as well as an overview and explanation of concepts brought up during the question and answer period.

“Storm of the Month has not only served as an effective learning tool but also has generated enthusiasm for dual-polarization,” said Jami Boettcher of the WDTB, “It can be viewed as a communication model applicable to other technology implementation efforts.” The concept is also being used with the NOAA Hazardous Weather Test Bed as their experiment results are being published online in a similar manner.

The Storm of the Month series has proven to be very successful in improving user proficiency.  The high attendance of this increasingly popular program has been beneficial for not only the forecasters and other users but ultimately the public as well.  Boettcher said, “If a forecaster has more confidence about what a threat is, if they understand the threat better, they will communicate that threat better to the public.”

The webinar series can be viewed at http://www.wdtb.noaa.gov/courses/dualpol/SOTM/index.html. More information about dual polarization radar is available at http://www.nssl.noaa.gov/research/radar/dualpol.php.