Modernization of the National Weather Service COOP Network

Adapted from Dr. Ken C. Crawford, Director, Oklahoma Climatological Survey, and National Research Council's Panel on Climate Record: Modernization of the Cooperative Observer Network

The main point is that the current network cannot continue at the present funding level. Instruments used in the network have not changed over the last 100 years and the policy running the network was inconsistent over time and the panel found that it was not obvious who "owns" the COOP data and is the steward of the network, which needs to be addressed.

In terms of recommendations, the panel has called for NOAA (NWS and NCDC) to improve management of the project. NOAA must partner with other agencies and guide the network into future. In general, there was a call for improvement in network technology, including automation of site communication as well as the gradual addition of data loggers, sensors, and computers.

Local and state networks for observing the weather could supplement, but not replace, COOP. NOAA should work with other agencies to create data composites. Modernizing and upgrading the network to get it ready for the 21st century is the main priority.

The COOP network has great economic value. For example, COOP data has played a role in some expensive lawsuits. Any errors in the data can complicate legal proceedings, so even minor errors are important.

In over 40,000 requests for information made during the 1980s and 1990s it was found that there were over 300 unique applications of COOP data, much of it climate related, which demonstrates its significant economic value producing "big bang for the buck" and opening up many new economic opportunities.

In Oklahoma, COOP provides so much value for so little expense. Never has a federally run activity returned so much value for so little expense. The intervals for which data was collected need to be controlled as current intervals are not adequate to meet demand. Calendar-day extremes, which are needed, but currently not provided, need to be offered. Another thing to be controlled is a bad practice which is non-uniformly applied, the subjective shifting of daily extremes to be more reflective of the "date-of-occurrence." There are also big inconsistencies in the quality and representativeness of the observing sites, which can be corrected.

Individuals will not be phased out, there will still be a role for human labor, for example, in reading snow depths.

Smaller scale meteorological models, which are being developed, need to be validated, thus the COOP data stream will be useful. In addition, COOP would help with the validation of climate prediction models.

Local mesonets cannot replace the COOP network. COOP is essential for tomorrow's world and the mesonets are a supplement.In addition as COOP modernizes, we need to document metadata.