I was in Kansas City yesterday, giving a noontime speech (re Iraq, US foreign policy, and other non-aviation issues).
On the way back to MCI, for the one daily nonstop back to DC, I stopped at the Aviation Weather Center, a few miles from the airport. This is the home of our beloved Aviation, to say nothing of the Area Forecasts, Convective Sigmets, and all the other official weather products we know and love. (Main site: http://aviationweather.gov/, but no doubt everyone already has that bookmarked.)
It really was fascinating – and weird in the “this is where it all happens” sense to see three big desks next to each other, “East,” “West,” and “Central,” where people were cranking out the area forecasts for each respective part of the country. Also the desk for the intriguing Collaborative Convective Forecast Product, with the guy clicking on the screen to redraw the boxes for where convection was likely to happen. And the one little hidden-away ninja den where ADDS itself its put together.
Two bottom-line conclusions: these people are working hard on making more of their information available graphically, and it can’t happen too soon. (Interestingly, the info they work from themselves is mainly graphical – each of them has a big array of display screens around him/her, showing various graphical displays.) They showed me an “experimental” Graphical Area Forecast, which will turn the AF from one of the least convenient products to use to one of the most convenient. For example, it will show the areas of likely cloud-bottoms-and-tops in an intuitive graphical way, as ADDS now shows Airmets. It will be officially approved and ready in… 2006.
Second conclusion: PIREPS really make a difference in their constant tweaking and validation of their algorithms. So what I had thought of as a generally-helpful-to-society, but ignorable-when-inconvenient function, namely filing a PIREP, is of tremendous consequence to them. The database of PIREPs is small enough, especially at low altitude, that even a small increase in number can have a significant relative effect. (They also appreciate having them identified as “Sky Spotter” reports. I’ve never done that, because it sounded silly, but I might even try.)
I know I’m preaching to the choir, in many of your cases. But this is my VisitorREP from a trip to the center.