WeatherBug would help Energy follow the fallout

Friday - 10/1/2010, 10:41am EDT

Bill Callahan, Director of Weather Services, AWS Convergence Technologies

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By Suzanne Kubota
Senior Internet Editor
FederalNewsRadio.com

For most of us, the question "how's the weather?" is relatively innocuous, but there are times that lives depend on the answer.

During chemical, biological, and radiological/nuclear atmospheric releases, the more information available about which way the wind is blowing, the better.

Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory (LLNL) and the "WeatherBug" system are working together on a weather information system to be used during emergencies like a terrorist attack.

LLNL says the idea is "to facilitate enhanced situational awareness for the National Atmospheric Release Advisory Center (NARAC,)" which is the Department of Energy's "plume modeling center."

By working with AWS Convergence Technologies' WeatherBug, DOE has access to data from "one of the largest weather observing systems" in the United States and "the vast majority of those weather stations are located in urban areas where people live," explained Bill Callahan, Director of Weather Services for AWS.

"So what we do is we fill gaps, if you will, between the more sparsely populated weather stations that the National Weather Service, for instance, operates or the Federal Aviation Administration operates."

Callahan told Federal News Radio there are more than 8,000 WeatherBug stations around the country and over 600 within the National Capital region. It's this sort of saturation that allows organizations like LLNL and NARAC to "track weather information at very local levels."

So, for instance, if there is a chemical spill or, God forbid, a terrorist attack in a major metropolitan area, they'll be able to leverage that local weather information and really get down to the neighborhood level to figure out where these plumes are going to go. And in this case, they'll be able to figure out where the highest concentrations of pollutants will be, what portions of the population need to be evacuated and then therefore where are the safe zones too. Where do you need to stage equipment and where do you need to move people to.

Callahan said WeatherBug brings a lot to the table. "So it's a high quality, high availability, real-time continuously flowing data stream and it fills the gaps with respect to other observation capabilities the federal government currently operates."

When combined with data LLNL already has access to from other federal agencies like NOAA, the resulting data is comprehensive and dense. "Many of these weather stations are located in urban areas. They're within neighborhoods where people live. They surround critical infrastructure that the United States has."