Announcement of Opportunity

With the Developmental Testbed Center

The Developmental Testbed Center (DTC) is currently offering visitor appointments. The DTC Visitor Program supports visitors to work with the DTC to improve software and other tools, as well as to test new forecasting and verification techniques, models and model components for numerical weather prediction (NWP). The goal is to provide the operational weather prediction centers [e.g., National Centers for Environmental Prediction (NCEP) and Air Force (AF)] with options for near-term advances in operational weather forecasting, and to provide researchers with NWP codes that represent the latest advances in technology, including cloud computing tools and containers.  This program also offers an opportunity for visitors to introduce new techniques into community codes used by the DTC that would be of particular interest to the research community.  Prospective visitors are required to submit a proposal describing the project they would like to undertake.  Selected visitors will have a year to complete their project beginning on a mutually agreed upon start date, where some portion of the work can be conducted from their home institution.  While concerns about COVID remain, the DTC is supportive of proposals where most or all of the work is conducted remotely through virtual interactions with DTC staff. 

The DTC offers two types of visitor projects: 1) projects undertaken by the Principal Investigator (PI), and 2) projects undertaken by a graduate student under the direction of the PI.  While the general parameters for these two types of projects are described below, we strive to provide some flexibility to accommodate each visitor’s situation.  We encourage prospective visitors to contact us to determine whether a variant of these general parameters would be acceptable prior to submitting their proposal.

  1. PI Projects

Successful applicants for PI projects can request travel, per diem and an honorarium to work with DTC staff and/or staff at one of the operational centers for up to two months, where it is possible to distribute the two months of support over multiple visits, within reason, during the one-year period.  Some past visitors have found it useful to plan an initial visit early in their visitor appointment, a second visit in the middle of their visitor appointment and a final visit near the end of their appointment, where the total number of travel days across the three trips is no more than two months.  Honorarium support is also possible for some remote work at the visitor’s home institution.  Conference attendance and publication costs associated with the project may also be supported.  Due to the current COVID situation, entirely remote projects will be considered.  

  1. Graduate student visits under the direction of the PI.

Successful applicants for graduate student projects will be offered up to one year of living per diem stipend and travel expenses for the graduate student to work with the DTC (located in Boulder, Colorado) and/or one of its partners [e.g., NCEP's Environmental Modeling Center (EMC)] and travel and per diem for up to two two-week visits to the location of the graduate student by the project PI.  The graduate student is welcome to come for multiple shorter visits, within reason, over the one year period. Support to attend conferences and publication costs related to the project may also be requested.  Graduate students who want to collaborate with the DTC but are concerned about COVID should contact us prior to submitting a proposal so we can discuss potential options.

Federal employees are not eligible for financial support through this program. Federal employees who are interested in collaborating with the DTC on a project should contact the DTC Director, Louisa Nance ( to discuss other avenues for collaborating with the DTC on advancing NWP technology.

1.0 The Developmental Testbed Center (DTC)

The DTC is a distributed facility with components residing at the National Center for Atmospheric Research (NCAR) and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration's (NOAA) Global Systems Laboratory (GSL). The fundamental purpose of the DTC is to provide a coordinating mechanism that acts as a bridge between research and operations thereby facilitating the activities of both communities in pursuit of their own and common objectives.  The overall objective of the DTC is to accelerate improvements in the numerical guidance that serves as the foundation for the weather forecasting process.

2.0 Relevant Software Systems

To serve as a bridge between operations and research, the DTC provides a framework for the two communities to collaborate in order to accelerate the transition of new technology into operational weather forecasting. This framework is based on software systems that are a shared resource with distributed development. Ongoing development of these systems is maintained under version control with mutually agreed upon software management plans. The DTC currently works with the following software systems:

  • Common Community Physics Package (CCPP) and its companion Single Column Model (SCM)
  • Unified Post Processor (UPP)
  • Unified Forecast System (UFS) - Medium-Range Weather (MRW), Short-Range Weather (SRW), and Hurricane Applications
  • Model Evaluation Tools (METplus) – Verification package
  • Numerical Weather Prediction (NWP) Containers

NOAA is in the process of transitioning its modeling suite to the UFS, which is envisioned to be a community-based, coupled, comprehensive Earth System Model (ESM).  The CCPP and SCM play important roles in establishing a Hierarchical Testing Framework (HTF; cf. for physics development within the UFS. The HTF involves testing small elements of an ESM first in isolation, then progressively connecting these elements with increased coupling between ESM components. The different HTF modeling steps include the simpler SCM, to Limited-Area Models, all the way up to fully-coupled global ESMs with interacting components (atmosphere, ocean, land, ice, etc).  Central to all DTC testing and evaluation activities is the comprehensive package of verification tools referred to as METplus, which provides a framework for evaluating a broad range of temporal and spatial scales.  CCPP and METplus are also cross-cutting infrastructure that are slated to be components of NCAR's System for Integrated Modeling of the Atmosphere (SIMA).

The DTC contributes to the software management and user support for these community systems in collaboration with the main developers. The main developers of these packages are affiliated with NOAA’s operational centers (e.g., EMC), NOAA’s research laboratories and NCAR. As community software, development contributions from the broader community are not only welcome but encouraged.

In addition to working with these individual software systems, the DTC is involved in efforts to develop and maintain scripting and workflows for end-to-end forecast systems. These workflows provide an important framework for conducting carefully controlled T&E activities. Through its visitor program, the DTC supports the addition of new capabilities to these community codes, as well as tests of the various components of these community codes.

3.0 How to Respond to this Announcement

Potential topics of interest to the DTC are outlined in Section 4.0. These topics are general and are intended as suggestions for the type of projects we will consider. Proposals for participation in the DTC Visitor Program should provide details on the specific work the visitor would conduct with the DTC and/or one of its partners (e.g., EMC). Previous DTC visitors are welcome to submit proposals for new projects or projects that build on past work. All proposals will be subjected to the same review process (see description below). The submitted material should include the following:

  • Project description including a title, computational resource requirements (processing, disk space and storage), location of planned visit(s) and duration(s), if honorarium support is requested (PI projects only), and expected outcomes (up to 5 pages).
  • Curriculum Vitae (1-2 pages).

As noted above, it is expected that the visitor will spend a residency of no more than two months (twelve months for a graduate student project) at the DTC, an operational center or a combination of time at the DTC and an operational center. The total duration of the project can continue for one year. It is expected that visitors will be able to continue their work from their own institution using DTC computational resources.  We do allow for some flexibility within the general guidelines and encourage prospective visitors to contact us to discuss their ideas and configuration of their visit prior to applying.

Proposals in response to this announcement should be submitted through an online application form at:

4.0 Possible Visitor Projects with the DTC

This general announcement is for an opportunity to work with the DTC to test existing NWP-based systems in order to assess/identify deficiencies, evaluate new NWP technology that shows promise of improving NWP within the next two to six years, or provide the DTC with promising new technology for research applications in accordance with chartered focus areas.  Projects in line with the DTC’s Annual Operating Plan (AOP) are strongly encouraged.  We also encourage interested parties to contact us prior to submitting a proposal to assist in determining potential interest on the part of the DTC in the work, particularly if the scope falls outside of the suggestions below.

Software and Tools

Projects directed at advancing DTC-supported software codes and tools, workflow systems, such as:

  • Enhancements to the CCPP framework
  • Physics innovations (new schemes or enhancements to existing ones) with the potential for improving forecast skill
  • New cases or capabilities for the CCPP SCM
  • Cloud computing on a variety of platforms/services (e.g., AWS, Azure)
  • Containerization software using a variety of platforms (e.g., Docker, Singularity)
  • New METplus use cases that demonstrate use of existing verification or diagnostic methodologies

Model Improvement, Verification Methods, and Testing and Evaluation

Projects directed at model improvement and/or testing and evaluating new NWP technologies, such as:

  • Testing and diagnostics related to uncovering problems related to physics, initialization, model uncertainty, spread, ensemble design, and potential solutions, in order to improve one or more UFS applications
  • Testing and evaluation of techniques that leverage artificial intelligence (AI), including machine learning, neural networks, etc., aimed at improving numerical weather model components (e.g. using AI to substitute for parts of model physics, or augment or inform about model physics) or development and improvement of downstream post-processing products (e.g. MOS)
  • Development of new verification methods that would enhance the utility of METplus.
  • Demonstration/Application of cutting-edge verification methods
    • Metrics for coupled model systems, such as land-atmosphere coupling metrics, and process-oriented metrics for coupling between other Earth system components (atmosphere, ocean, and snow/ice).
    • Process-oriented metrics with a focus on the upper atmosphere, mid-latitudes, tropical cyclones, air quality, and polar regions
    • Phenomena defined by multiple Earth system fields (e.g. drylines, snowbands,, drought potential)
    • Spatial verification methods applied to fields other than precipitation (e.g. sea-ice extent, wind gusts, dust storms)

Projects directed at known issues of the UFS MRW, Seasonal-to-Subseasonal (S2S), Hurricane and SRW applications  summarized below. For more detailed information about issues associated with MRW, S2S and SRW Applications, see Final Consolidated Forecasters requests April 2021

  • Forecasting differential heating and associated instability gradients especially in areas with low-level cloud cover and cold pools (MRW/S2S/SRW)
  • Poor forecasting of precipitation type, particularly in or near transition zones (MRW/S2S/SRW)
  • Scattered “popcorn” convection that yields too-high precipitation amounts and over too-large an area (MRW/S2S/SRW)
  • Convective skill beyond 48 hours and general precipitation skill beyond one week (MRW/S2S/SRW)
  • Complex terrain issues, such as poor capture of downslope warming and/or drying (MRW/S2S), need for improvement of upscale effects onto the synoptic pattern for winds (MRW/S2S), and the need for improvement in forecasts of precipitation and downslope effects with winds (SRW).
  • Errors associated with low-level temperature or capping inversions and low bias for CAPE (MRW/S2S)
  • Medium range under forecasts of extreme heat/heat index episodes (MRW/S2S)
  • Shortwave troughs that are too progressive in the medium to extended range forecasts (MRW/S2S)
  • Under forecast of fog and low cloud cover associated with shallow cold air masses (MRW/S2S)
  • Right-of-track bias for Tropical Cyclones (TCs) (MRW/S2S)
  • Low ceiling biases during precipitation events (SRW)
  • Struggles generating and maintaining convectively induced cold pools of the proper magnitude and spatial extent that are critical to storm evolution (SRW) 
  • Mixing out low-level inversions too quickly (SRW)
  • More lead time for high-impact events (SRW)
  • Better prediction of extreme precipitation events such as flooding, location and duration of mesoscale snow bands, etc. (SRW)
  • Movement and propagation of MCSs (SRW)
  • Inaccurate depiction and evolution of thunderstorms in very short range (0-6h) forecasts (SRW)
  • Large cross-track bias and large storm size bias for TCs (Hurricane Analysis and Forecast System; HAFS)
  • Large cycle-to-cycle forecast variations in TC track and intensity forecasts (HAFS)
  • Under-prediction of TC rapid intensification (HAFS)

Projects related to case studies from the UFS Case Studies Platform

  • Conduct process-level investigations using cases from the case catalog and test model innovations by applying the hierarchical system development framework
  • Contribute new cases to the platform to facilitate spanning more regimes and new diagnostics

5.0 Proposal Evaluation Process

Proposals submitted in response to this announcement will be subject to both internal and external review.  The external review will be conducted by the DTC Science Advisory Board (SAB), which consists of scientists from government labs, operational centers, and academic institutions.  The DTC Management Board will make the final decision based on recommendations to the DTC Director from the review by the DTC SAB.  Focus categories for which the reviewers are asked to rate proposals include: 

  • Relevance to the DTC mission
  • Feasibility
  • Potential to influence future operational implementations
  • Innovative research/scientific merit
  • Alignment with current activities
  • Relevance to the suggested topics in the DTC Visitor Program Announcement of Opportunity