NOAA Hazardous Weather Testbed starts with HS-PHI experiment

The first week of the Hazard Services – Probabilistic Hazard Information experiment in the NOAA Hazardous Weather Testbed at the National Weather Center in Norman, OK in 2018. This is the third year of the HS-PHI experiment in the HWT. (Photo by James Murnan/NOAA NSSL)

The NOAA Hazardous Weather Testbed is once again busy buzzing with activity as researchers kick off the year’s first research activities. Located in the National Weather Center in Norman, Oklahoma, the testbed is operated by the NOAA National Severe Storms Laboratory and the NOAA National Weather Service.

Starting this week, participants will assess a new tool using rapid-updating, high-resolution Probabilistic Hazard Information, known as PHI. From March 12-16,  April 2-6 and April 9-13 the Hazard Services – Probabilistic Hazard Information Experiment is testing an experimental concept for delivering information to the public in a way that simulates how National Weather Service forecasters would use it within their software.

“PHI will bring the public more specific weather information, but most importantly it will deliver severe weather information hours, rather than minutes before severe weather could become a threat,” said Alyssa Bates, University of Oklahoma cooperative institute and NWS Warning Decision Training Division researcher. “That will allow ample time for businesses, outdoor venues, and healthcare facilities to execute their severe weather preparedness plan.”

This experiment is one of many under the umbrella of  NSSL’s FACETs, Forecasting a Continuum of Environmental Threats project. FACETs is an initiative aimed at improving the communication of hail, wind, and tornado hazards to save lives and property.  Instead of a creating a warning area, in the FACETs paradigm forecasters would create probabilistic hazard information “plumes.” New types of severe weather warnings can be derived from the plumes. These include the traditional warnings the public receives today, to special warnings for specific users that have a lower tolerance to severe weather and require longer lead times to take action.

“Thanks to thoughtful forecaster feedback in a well-constructed test environment, the software has become more stable over the last three years to the point that we can now focus on the more fundamental questions of the meaning of the probabilistic hazard information and how best to communicate it to our partners and the public” said Tracy Hansen, lead software engineer at NOAA’s  Earth System Research Laboratory Global Systems Division.

Participants in the first week include NWS forecasters from Albany, New York, and Tulsa, Oklahoma, as well as researchers from NOAA’s  ESRL and the University of Akron.

Second week participants from April 2-6 include NWS forecasters from Texas and Guam, as well as researchers from NOAA’s ESRL GSD, University of Akron, OU CIMMS and NOAA NWS Warning Decision Training Division.

Third week participants from April 9-13 include human factors scientists,  NWS forecasters from 9-13 April Peachtree City / Atlanta and  Spokane, Washington , as well as researchers from NOAA’s ESRL GSD, University of Akron, OU CIMMS and NOAA NWS Warning Decision Training Division, as well as the FACETs Working Group.

HS-PHI was developed by the National Severe Storms Laboratory with the National Weather Service and ESRL, and is in its third year of evaluation.

PHI is one of six different experiments taking place in the NOAA HWT this spring.