The Times West Virginian

March 27, 2013

Fairmont to be hub in weather forecasting

Technology to offer backup to keep data flowing to key information sources

By Jessica Borders
Times West Virginian

FAIRMONT — New technology in Fairmont will help put severe weather information into the hands of meteorologists and the public more quickly.

On Tuesday afternoon, Sen. Jay Rockefeller, D-W.Va., came together with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) and its National Weather Service as well as local meteorologists for a press conference at the Robert H. Mollohan Research Center in Fairmont’s I-79 Technology Park.

The parties announced plans to establish new operations in Fairmont to manage the next-generation weather satellites.

West Virginia was impacted by historic weather events over the past year, including the severe thunderstorms in June and Hurricane Sandy in October. The National Weather Service issued warnings for these emergencies and needs to replicate that kind of performance for all major weather events, said Dr. Louis Uccellini, director of the National Weather Service.

In order for this agency to make forecasts several days in advance, it needs observations from across the globe, he said. Most of the data that the National Weather Service uses to initialize its models comes from satellites.

The global observer system will be greatly enhanced by the work that is currently going on with NOAA’s Joint Polar Satellite System (JPSS) and Geostationary Operational Environmental Satellite – R Series (GOES-R). The Robert H. Mollohan Research Center in Fairmont will become the backup hub for the data coming from both satellite systems, Uccellini said.

“You have to get that data fast and you have to get it reliably,” he said. “It has to work every time.”

He said the data stream has to be secure, and information technology security is a major challenge. Security activity for NOAA takes place in Fairmont and will grow.


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