New Modeling System at the Lower Mississippi River Forecast Center

Author(s): Roth, K.

The Lower Mississippi River Forecast Center (LMRFC) uses the National Weather Service River Forecast System (NWSRFS). This system includes a variety of hydraulic and hydrologic techniques and operations that handle everything from the initial processing of historical data to the preparation of river forecasts. At the time of development (1971) NWSRFS was run on a mainframe computer and the code was streamlined to function with the limited computer resources of the day. Computer hardware and software development architecture have advanced in the last 40 years so that much of the NWSRFS functionality is no longer necessary. NWSRFS requires a large amount of maintenance and is no longer cost effective to keep it in service.

In 1997, the Office of Hydrologic Development (OHD) and a team of hydrologists began the process of investigating solutions for the aging NWSRFS. After much research and testing of software, FEWS (Flood Early Warning System), developed and maintained by the Dutch Company, Deltares, was chosen as the replacement for NWSRFS. The FEWS software is platform independent and offers a service oriented architecture that is modular in a sense like NWSRFS, but lent itself to more readily incorporating new modules and techniques. The FEWS software communicates with the hydrologic/hydraulic models and modules using a standard XML based protocol for which an adapter can be developed to pass information to and from and execute. To make it usable for the River Forecast Centers, FEWS adapters were developed to use many of the existing hydrologic operations, techniques, and models from NWSRFS. The Community Hydrologic Prediction System (CHPS) became the NWS’s customized application of FEWS. CHPS runs models that are compatible with FEWS including those migrated from NWSRFS.

Currently CHPS is installed at the LMRFC but is not fully operational. To make it operational, the staff is migrating all of the hydrologic data necessary, to make a forecast, from NWSRFS to CHPS. This process is largely done automatically by scripts but some local customization is necessary. Once the migration to CHPS is complete and the model is running and stable, the LMRFC will begin parallel operations where we will produce forecasts using NWSRFS and CHPS. These forecasts will then be compared to verify that similar results are being achieved. After a period of evaluation, NWSRFS will be retired and CHPS will be the operational forecast system used at the LMRFC.

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Session II Weather/Climate
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Session IV Surface Water Management
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