Naval meteorologists and oceanographers know and understand the Navy’s unpredictable operating environment. We have a high comfort level with adapting to risk and uncertainty using diverse techniques and teams – a primary characteristic of innovation.
We recognize that diverse perspectives, backgrounds, and experiences foster—even drive — new, innovative, and effective solutions to any given problem. This principle is not only reflected in our personnel policies, but is at the very heart of our mission to predict the weather to keep the Fleet safe. I had an opportunity to speak about these topics during a panel discussion at the National Naval Officer Association’s 43rd annual meeting in San Diego.
For years, the Naval Oceanography community has cultivated collaboration, cross-thinking and information sharing with academia and R&D, other military services and government agencies or international partners to build better forecasting methods, weather and ocean models and associated technologies and employ them more efficiently and effectively.
When I first joined the Navy 30 years ago, a forecast was accurate out to two days – if you were lucky. However, long-range operational planning also requires that we know what the weather and ocean conditions will be like next week, next month and beyond.
Many of our collaborative efforts have been focused on developing and transitioning newer, better weather models into the operational world. These include the Navy Global Environmental (NAVGEM) model that became the Department of Defense’s primary global weather model in 2013. Another model, the Coupled Ocean/Atmosphere Mesoscale Prediction System – Tropical Cyclone (COAMPS-TC) was not only the first operational non-hydrostatic tropical cyclone prediction system employed by DoD, but today is one of the top performing TC prediction models in the world. The 2015 version, which made its transition to operations in June, shows a further significant improvement in forecast skill.
The COAMPS-TC team at Naval Research Laboratory-Marine Meteorology Division just earned a well-deserved ONR 2014 Dr. Arthur E. Bisson Prize for Naval Technology Achievement.
Meteorologists and oceanographers—whether on the R&D or operational side – are not only smart and talented, but passionate about their work, which has streamlined the process and timeline for bringing in new technology and ideas and keeps them evolving to meet new challenges.
Take for example a technique called “ensemble forecasting.” This numerical weather prediction method epitomizes diversity of thought: We run several weather prediction models, each slightly different whether in the mathematics, the physics, the parameterizations, and the specific strengths and weaknesses of each.
As with the collaborative teams that create and operate them, the models themselves are very diverse. The U.S. Navy’s weather forecast model Navy Global Environmental Model (NAVGEM) is optimized to perform best over ocean areas, while the National Weather Service uses a model that works best over the land areas in CONUS, and the European Met Center’s model works best – go figure – over continental Europe!
We use the statistics of all the predictions to estimate representative samples of future states of a dynamical weather system. As it happens, the ensemble forecasting method is the best one for predicting weather out to several weeks.
While ensemble forecasting itself has been around for almost a decade, we are currently working with the Office of Naval Research to use this technique to make predictions out to several months by 2020. Just think of the advantages longer-range forecasts will bring to Navy operators and the major problems they will solve!
Operators of ships, submarines and aircraft will have more planning time for conducting exercises, transits, and operations avoiding severe weather damage and costly route changes.
Base and installation commanders will be able to plan for periods of drought, or flooding – issues that affect water supply today at Naval Base San Diego and Naval Base Norfolk.
Inclusion and diversity clearly leads to innovation. In Naval Meteorology and Oceanography, we not only apply this principle to our people, but to weather and ocean prediction, too. After all, anticipating, adapting and thriving in a rapidly changing environment is what we do for the Navy every day.