Participation by Academic Institutions in Project CRAFT


1.  Background
In fall 1998, the Center for Analysis and Prediction of Storms (CAPS) at the University of Oklahoma, in collaboration with the NOAA National Severe Storms Laboratory, NOAA Radar Operations Center, and UCAR Unidata Program Center, launched the Collaborative Radar Acquisition Field Test (CRAFT) to demonstrate the viability of compressing and transmitting, via the Internet in real time, WSR-88D Level II (base) data.  Involvement of private companies began in mid-2001, with NOAA approval following termination of the NIDS agreement, as a means for stimulating the use of experimental near real time Level II data by the private sector and determining their associated data needs.  Broader participation now is being encouraged, particularly within the academic community, via funding from the National Science Foundation as well as other government as well as private sector entities.  At the present time, 61 WSR-88D radars participate, with another 15 or so expected to be added by mid-summer 2003. 

2.  Methodology of Data Delivery and Technical Information for System Managers
Near real time Level II data from CRAFT radars are first compressed at the radar site using a loss-less public-domain algorithm (BZIP2) and then relayed, via the Internet, to the end-user site, where they are ingested by the UCAR Unidata Local Data Manager (LDM).  LDM is a free software package, available from Unidata, that operates on Unix-based computers, including PCs and small workstations, and is used by academia, government, and industry to both disseminate and manage a wide variety of real time meteorological information.  The configuration of existing LDM systems to accommodate Level II data is readily accomplished by straightforward changes to LDM parameter settings.  Technical information may be obtained by clicking HERE.

3.  Restrictions on Data
Per guidance from the National Weather Service, no restrictions exist on the use or distribution of Level II data provided by Project CRAFT. 

4.  Reliability
As an experimental data dissemination infrastructure that does not provide 7x24 support, Project CRAFT cannot ensure continuous reliable data delivery.  Further, data availability is subject to ongoing approval from the NEXRAD Tri-Agencies.  However, data reliability is known to exceed 95%, and data latency, defined as the total time delay from the process of segments of volume scans at the radar site until such segments become available at the end-user site, averages 10 to 20 seconds. 

5.  Cost for Participation
Participation in Project CRAFT is free to academic institutions via a grant from the National Science Foundation.

6.  Software Availability and User Support
Basic support for obtaining Level II data via Project CRAFT can be found by clicking HERE.  Expanded support generally will not be available, though email inquires and questions will be processed as resources allow (click HERE for details).  The Unidata Program Center also will provide support, though again as resources allow.  Academic institutions wishing to receive Level II data should be prepared to rely upon local expertise to the maximum extent possible. 

7.  The Future of Near Real Time WSR-88D Level II Data Distribution
The National Weather Service is implementing a Level II data acquisition and distribution system, based heavily upon the CRAFT concept, to meet its operational needs.  This system likely will meet all needs of the academic sector as well.