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NWS Acting Director Mary Erickson: Migration to Cloud Could Be Game Changer for Forecasting

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration is eyeing a cloud migration that could be transformative for the agency’s National Weather Service and open up new possibilities for the future of forecasting, according to a top NWS official.

Mary Erickson, acting assistant administrator for NOAA and acting director for NWS, said her organization is working to figure out what its Advanced Weather Interactive Processing System, known as AWIPS, would look like in the cloud.

“What does the future of forecasting look like? Imagine if you are not tied to that infrastructure right in that office,” Erickson said during a GovCon Wire Events fireside chat. “We are tied to that now to make sure we can do safe and reliable warnings. If AWIPS is in the cloud, that’s a game changer in terms of that paradigm.”

Having AWIPS in the cloud, Erickson said, could support teams on the ground with important tools and resources, like damage assessment toolkits, that can be accessed remotely.

NOAA and NWS already have a number of research and development platforms in the cloud, like some of its new and existing Geographic Information Systems efforts. However, moving forward with a larger AWIPS cloud migration will take time and will require a smart, hybrid cloud approach, Erickson said.

“At the Weather Service, because we are so operational, we are being very deliberate,” she explained. “We want to make sure that we’ve got a strategy going forward that’s going to allow us to sustain being robust.”

The agency’s other modernization and technology initiatives include the use of artificial intelligence and machine learning to more accurately predict and depict excessive rainfall.

“If you use normal tools, you tend to get those globs or you get nice round areas of where the precip is going to be, and anybody who studies precipitation and actual rainfall knows that that’s not how it happens,” Erickson shared.

“So we’ve got some AI techniques that take that and transform it into something that’s much more realistic looking, which is hard to do at the longer range,” she continued.

Visit the GovCon Wire Events page to view “NOAA: Fireside Chat with Mary Erickson” and other events on-demand.

Join GovCon Wire Events on May 4 for the 2nd Annual IC Acquisition and Technology Innovation Summit, which features a distinguished roster of speakers from across the Intelligence Community and industry.

Dr. Stacey Dixon, principal deputy director of national intelligence and 2022 Wash100 Award winner is scheduled to keynote. Register today!

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