New tools and technologies have improved the capacity to monitor real-time precipitation measurements around the United States, largely resulting from the development of the Applied Climate Information System (ACIS) (Pasteris et al., 1997). The primary goals of ACIS are to integrate data from several unique networks into one transparent database maintained by the six NOAA regional climate centers and provide software tools to create a wide variety of climate-related products. A web-based interface provides access to near-real-time National Weather Service (NWS) Cooperative (COOP) Observer Network data, NCDC preliminary and historical datasets, and regional climate center network datasets. ACIS will eventually include information from a variety of federal networks (i.e., SNOTEL [SNOwpack TELemetry], SCAN [Soil Climate and Analysis Network], the Remote Automated Weather Stations network) and other regional and state Mesonet data from around the United States.
A related tool is currently being developed as part of a collaborative project between USDA's Risk Management Agency and the Department of Computer Science and Engineering, the NDMC, and the High Plains Regional Climate Center (HPRCC), all located at the University of Nebraska. This project has led to the development of the National Agricultural Decision Support System (NADSS). The NADSS website (http://nadss.unl.edu) contains a collection of decision support tools designed to help agricultural producers assess a variety of climate-related risks. A national interface is being developed to enable a user to generate tabular or map products for the continental United States, or for any individual state or station. Calculations for the SPI, PDSI, a newly derived self-calibrated PDSI (Wells et al., 2004), and a soil moisture model can all be generated and presented in map or table form. This operational tool is based on preliminary, quality-controlled, near-real-time data utilizing the ACIS interface.
NOAA's plan for modernizing the COOP network through automation of the existing network and development of the
National Cooperative Mesonet (a network of networks, incorporating traditional stations, airports, other networks, and other sensors, such as soil moisture probes at many locations) can potentially support improved drought monitoring (National Weather Service, 2003). This network is the backbone of the United States' long-term climate observation network, which is vital to monitoring drought. Having access to this critical and credible data resource in near real time will sustain our ability to create products that can better meet users' spatial and temporal needs.
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