Tuesday, October 16, 2012

NOAA's New Climate Facility & Its Model Page Problem

Yesterday marked the "official" opening of a new facility for  NOAA's Center for Weather and Climate Prediction in suburban Washington, DC.  The 268,000 square foot facility, expected to be LEED gold certified, houses NCEP, Air Resources Laboratory, and Satellite and Information Service in one facility and will be the home to over 800 meteorologists.

The facility will provide a one-stop shop for climate research and analysis, as well as be the home for the supercomputers that run everyone's favorite weather computer model, the GFS.  The environmental and forecast models that many meteorologists rely upon for forecasting are housed in the new facility.

“This facility is an important investment in our nation’s future,” said Acting Commerce Secretary Rebecca Blank at the press event yesterday. “It’s a place where government, academia and others can come together to make new discoveries, drive innovation, and uncover new ways to give our citizens and businesses the information they need to make smart decisions, whether that’s deciding how to ship their products to customers or just taking care of day-to-day tasks. The work that happens at this center – and the new discoveries that will be made – will lead to a better quality-of-life for all Americans.”

Getting a technological upgrade may definitely result in better research, better climate science, and hopefully better forecasts over time as meteorological science improves.

Now if only NOAA can improve the webpage that those models are accessed on through the NCEP website...as it has had its share of issues over the past few months and it isn't the most user-friendly design.  It doesn't help that trying to access one of the NAM runs last night resulted in getting this screen shot in my futile attempt at seeing the model.

The problems with NCEP's webpage have been going on occasionally over the past year -- most of it technical, all of it related to the "upgrade" of the webpage that the computer models are displayed upon.  There have been a number of coding problems and other behind the scenes glitches on the tech side that have lead to display problems if you have been trying to view the models on their webpage.

It would be a much bigger issue if this were 2007.  However, with the increasing proliferation of other free website options like TwisterData and Instant Weather Maps, the demand from the weather enthusiast sector upon NCEP to see each and every run of the GFS is not as great as it used to be.  You can get it elsewhere.  Quickly...and for free if you don't want to pay for it.  That said, with the upgrade in facility their model webpage could certainly use a php makeover as well.