The NOAA Data Users Conference was held May 11 th – 13 th, 2005 in Asheville, North Carolina. The purpose of the workshop was to describe NOAA’s plans for new information, products and services and to establish a closer working relationship with users of NOAA’s data and products. Several of NOAA’s scientist, researchers, and technicians provided information on existing and upcoming products. In addition NOAA desired feedback from data users regarding four areas:

1) Utility of NOAA data supplied to users
2) Capabilities of existing NOAA interfaces
3) Requirements for new products and technologies to access and utilize data
4) Measurement of NOAA’s impacts upon society.

A total of 204 participants were in attendance including users from academia, the research community, the private sector, and other government agencies. The workshop consisted of presentations on the status of NOAA data distributors, panel sessions, customer breakout sessions, and a tour of the National Climatic Data Center (NCDC). Welcoming remarks were given by Dr. Thomas R. Karl, director of NOAA’s National Climatic Data Center in Asheville.

On May 11 th Mr. John Kelly, Deputy Undersecretary for Oceans and Atmosphere gave the keynote address entitled, “Toward a Global Earth Observation System of Systems (GEOSS)”. His talk described the GEOSS vision to enable a healthy public, economy, and planet through an integrated, comprehensive, and sustained Earth observation system. Mr. Kelly presented examples of social, economic and science issues addressed by GEOSS and identified nine societal benefit areas on which GEOSS will focus. These include:

  • Improving weather forecasting
  • Reducing loss of life and property from disasters
  • Protecting and monitoring our ocean resources

Understanding, assessing, predicting, mitigating and adapting to climate variability and change

  • Supporting sustainable agriculture and combating land degradation
  • Understanding the effects of environmental factors on human health and well-being
  • Developing the capacity to make ecological forecasts
  • Protecting and monitoring water resources
  • Monitoring and managing energy resources

GEOSS involves integration of both observation systems and data management systems. Through both vertical and horizontal integration, GEOSS will address the needs of users in a wide range of areas, including human health and well-being, natural and human induced disasters, weather information, energy resources, water resources, climate variability and change, sustainable agriculture, biodiversity, and terrestrial, coastal, and marine ecosystems.

On May 12 th a panel discussion took place which provided an opportunity for data users to provide feedback to NOAA. The Moderator for the discussion was Dr. Leonard Pietrafesa, chair of the NOAA Science Advisory Board. Four panelists were selected for the discussion and were given one area of focus: Climate and Weather, Oceans, Coastal, or Geophysical. Each panelist was asked the following questions:

  • What can NOAA do to improve feedback and communications?
  • What new products and services should NOAA plan for?
  • What metadata, data inventories, and standards will be required?
  • What are NOAA’s impacts upon society and how can we measure them?
  • How will CLASS, GIS, and other advances in technology and software serve your operations?

Each panelist thoroughly answered the questions provided. To improve feedback and communications Dr. Branscome suggested providing direct contact to NOAA personnel familiar with technical details of data, to announce and preview upcoming changes, and improve mechanisms for receiving and responding to suggestions for major/minor changes in data products, tools, formats and access.

Dr. Matthew Howard, Research Scientist at Texas A & M, suggested NOAA’s impact to society could be measured by measuring the number of bytes that are transferred, counting literature citations involving NOAA data, and through user surveys initiated through newsletters.

On May 12th and 13th breakout sessions took place. These sessions were divided into four categories: Climate, Weather, Geophysics, and Oceanography. Participants were asked to choose a session and were given a list of questions to discuss. At the end of the breakout session on May 13 th feedback was provided from all of the groups. Mr. Brian Hughes was in charge of the Weather breakout session. Several recommendations were provided by the group. Some of these include that standards be made more universal and that data be more consistent. For example, the location, time reporting, and station measurement time should remain consistent. It was also suggested that better backup power and communications and increased resolution of numerical models are types of technologies that will be valuable in the future.

On May13th the workshop concluded with an optional tour of NCDC. The NCDC is the world’s largest active archive of weather data. It produces numerous climate publications and responds to data request from all over the world.

The workshop was very well organized and provided useful information on NOAA products and services. It also provided an opportunity to express questions and concerns regarding NOAA products.

Report from Mrs. Keisha Wilkins
Research Associate, ECSU