NOAA’s “Weather Central” Settles into Its New Home

August 10, 2012 · 0 comments

Riverdale, Maryland’s 800 newest citizens are starting to move in: the suburb of Washington, D.C., which is just a hailstone’s throw from the University of Maryland, is suddenly inheriting a major influx of meteorologists and their colleagues.
This newcomers are a cadre of NOAA scientists with a long history behind them, and with the opening of the new 268,762 square-foot, four-story National Center for Weather and Climate Prediction, a new era begins for the National Centers for Environmental Prediction as well as colleagues from the National Environmental Satellite, Data, and Information Service and the Air Resources Laboratory. So, to mark the occasion

David Caldwell and Louis Uccellini, back in April, awaiting a first meeting at the then-unfinished new home for NCEP and other NOAA groups, in Riverdale, Maryland.

and kick off a move-in process that will continue through September as operations shift from the 40-year-old World Weather Building in Camp Springs, Maryland, NCEP Director (and current AMS President) Louis Uccellini decided to make a gesture to his predecessors who brought NOAA’s forecasting hub to this juncture. Here’s the commemorative email he sent, which was shared throughout NCEP:

Subject: Last email from the desk of the Director of NCEP at the World Weather Building
Date: Wed, 01 Aug 2012 14:33:35 -0400
From: Dr. Louis Uccellini
To: Ron McPherson, Bill Bonner, Jim Howcroft, Norm Phillip
Ron/Bill/Jim/Norm: Tradition has it that when the NCEP Director leaves his position and shuts the lights out for the last time in Room 100 at the World Weather Building (WWB), he/she leaves a hand written letter taped inside the top drawer of their desk for the next Director.  But we have a unique situation as today marks the last day the Director of NCEP resides at the WWB as I will be moving to the new NOAA Center for Weather and Climate Prediction (NCWCP) tomorrow.
So I have decided to write this email to you, the former NCEP Directors (Bill Bonner, Ron McPherson), the Deputy Director (Jim Howcroft) and Norm Phillips, as the last correspondence, the very last email sent from this office.I have been reflecting on the history made in the WWB from 1974 to the present and understand that much of this would not have happened without you, the previous Directors (George Cressman and Fred Shuman), and the great people that you assembled to develop and implement real-time models that would ultimately access the global observing system and provide numerical predictions that would become the basis, the rock solid foundation, for how weather and climate forecasts are made.
David Laskin wrote about the WWB and NMC/NCEP in his 1996 book, “Braving the Elements: The Stormy History of American Weather” and stated:”… a nondescript building in the town of Camp Springs, Maryland, just a stones throw off the Capital Beltway.  From the outside the place looks like one of those suburban “professional complexes” where dentists and insurance salespeople set up shop.  The one clue that something special happens here is an inconspicuous sign over the entrance: World Weather Building.  No marble columns.  No uniformed guards.  No eagle clutching lightning bolts, No model of the globe.  And yet, despite the absence of visible symbols, this building is as critical to our nation’s weather as the Pentagon is to our defense.  For this is the headquarters of the National Meteorological Center- the innermost nerve bundle of the central nervous system of the National Weather Service…..The National Meteorologic Center is where national weather comes into focus.  All the maps you see in newspapers….all those long range outlooks they flash up on the Weather Channel: they all originate here.  This is where the global networks converge; this is where the megacomputers are run; this is where the nation’s weather happens: the NMC is Weather Central.”
Quite a tribute to you during your time here and a recognition of the historic importance of the WWB.  Yes, history was made at the WWB!  Today we run a wide spectrum of climate and weather models: 1) from short-range climate to mesoscale severe weather events, 2) from space weather forecasts to Ocean and an increasing number of Bay Models (led by NOS), 3) from individual event driven hurricane, fire weather and dispersion models (led by OAR) to an increasing number of multi model ensemble systems; all involving a coupling of many components of the Earth System and fed by over 35 satellite systems (helped along by the Joint Center for Satellite Data Assimilation) and many synoptic and asynoptic insitu data systems. We now have all the Service Centers working off the same NAWIPS workstation environment and producing products collaboratively and interactively with other Centers and Weather Forecast offices around the country with a focus on extreme events that includes severe weather, fire weather, hurricanes, and winter storms.  And  the people in the WWB and throughout the rest of NCEP all played their critical roles to make this happen…..
This week starts the move of the operational and administrative units to the NOAA Center for Weather and Climate Prediction.  NCO has been in the NCWCP since February and has done a masterful job in wiring the place up to meet our mission needs and is presently coordinating the move.  So far it is all going as smoothly as we expected  and our goal remains to move all the operational units without missing one product (Another mission impossible).  I want to thank all of you … for helping make this building project a reality and sticking with us as we navigated our way through and around the unexpected challenges we had to confront to bring it to a successful conclusion.  I especially want to recognize David Caldwell who was with me at the very first briefing on this project, worked every step through the planning and construction start up, and is still involved as we go through the check list.
So we are ready to move.  I can tell you that the smiles on the faces of the employees leaving here and moving over to the NCWCP this week says it all.  They are ready!  And I also have to note that the people I met on a recent visit to the ECMWF (who looked at the pictures of the NCWCP) stated they were jealous as they looked around their older building.  Nevertheless, we still have some work to do to catch up, which we will, as we settle into this modern stunning facility that we all can be proud of.  Thanks to you all for your support during this 13 year saga.  Some pictures are attached.  From this point forward, you can find me at the NCWCP, Suite 4600.
Louis