Thursday, March 23, 2023

The International Desks: NOAA’s Weather Prediction Center trains meteorology partners from around the world

Fig. 1. Mike Davison (at the computer) is seen training Sareti Cardos from Mexico (left) and Earl Hunte from Barbados (right) on the analysis of water vapor imagery, to assess the upper tropospheric synoptic situation and the availability of moisture in the upper atmosphere.

NOAA’s Weather Prediction Center (WPC) in College Park, Maryland, creates weather forecasts for the entire country, but did you know the center also trains meteorologists from around the world?

The WPC International Desks work with NOAA’s international partners to train meteorologists and support World Meteorological Organization (WMO) efforts to advance forecasting capabilities around the world. In fact, the program first originated after a request from Uruguay in 1988 to support rainfall forecasting after La Nina caused a significant drought in their country. 

Since WPC established the Desks in 1988, more than 380 participants from 34 countries have traveled to Maryland for in-residence training to learn directly from National Weather Service meteorologists. The trainees come from South and Central America, Mexico and the island nations in the Caribbean, Africa and the Middle East. In addition to the in-residence training in, the WPC  International Desks also conduct monthly virtual training sessions to keep alumni of the desks updated on the newest development and applications while also reaching a more global audience. 

The forecast products generated by the Desks have many customers, but they primarily support the meteorological services in WMO regions III and IV (South American and the Caribbean). The team excels at forecasting tropical rainfall amounts and is also well recognized for their expertise in jet streak meteorology in the Southern hemisphere. The products they develop are used by a wide range of organizations, including the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) to help mobilize the timing of aid packages, and components of the Department of Defense – including the U.S. Southern Command – to inform situational awareness that may interfere with operations.

The National Hurricane Center uses graphical forecasts generated by the International Desks to brief FEMA and other partners when tropical cyclones threaten U.S. territories in the Caribbean. The Desks alert Central American countries when storms threaten heavy rainfall amounts, which assists the regions’ ability to prepare. Since Hurricane Maria struck Puerto Rico in 2017, the team has provided daily weather support to the National Weather Service Forecast Office in San Juan.

International Desks Chief Michel Davison and Research Meteorologist Dr. José M. Gálvez lead the training and forecasting efforts that benefit so many around the world. In 2014, they jointly developed an index for tropical convection forecasting, known as the Galvez-Davison Index (GDI). This was the first index developed in more than 40 years to forecast thunderstorm potential in tropical air masses. The index is now being used by the National Weather Service and the regional meteorological centers in the Caribbean Basin, Central and South America, resulting in higher confidence forecasts.

During the ongoing global pandemic, the International Desks increased virtual training in coordination with the Cooperative Institute for Research in the Atmosphere (CIRA). So far, more than 1,250 participants have attended these specialized sessions from WMO regions III and IV, the Middle East and Europe.


Originally published at

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