COMET Outreach Program Request for Office of Water Prediction (OWP)/National Water Center (NWC) Cooperative Project Proposals

RFP Goal
Since 1989, the COMET Outreach Program has provided financial support to over 80 universities for applied meteorological and hydrological research conducted in collaboration with operational forecast offices. This current initiative, sponsored by the National Weather Service’s (NWS’s) OWP, will fund 2-4 Cooperative Projects, which are broad collaborative research efforts that support activities such as technique development, applications research, and/or transfer from research to operations.  
The new NWC facility in Tuscaloosa, Alabama, is part of a larger programmatic structure of the NWS/OWP that includes units in Maryland and Minnesota.  It was established to research, develop, and deliver state-of-the-science national hydrologic analyses, forecast information, data, decision-support services, and guidance to inform essential emergency services and water management decisions. In partnership with NWS national, regional, and local offices, the OWP coordinates, integrates, and supports consistent water prediction activities from global to local levels.
The OWP implemented a CONUS-scale instantiation of the WRF-Hydro modeling framework as the first version of a National Water Model (NWM) in August of 2016. This version of WRF-Hydro couples the NWS National Centers for Environmental Prediction (NCEP) forcing data from operational numerical weather prediction models with the NOAH-MP land-surface model and diffusive wave hydrologic routing to produce water budget variables on the 1-km grid and streamflow estimates on the National Hydrography Dataset (NHD) NHDPlusV2 catchment/network flow line scale.

Under the management of the COMET Outreach Program, the OWP will provide support for 2-4 Cooperative Projects. The purpose of this RFP is to broaden OWP and NWS water resource programmatic activities by encouraging university researchers with hydrologic expertise to partner with current NWC or other OWP employees in advancing water science and operations. Proposal topics should include (but are not limited to) the following research areas of interest:

  • Technique development to assess local and regional skill and performance of using the operational output from the NWM: Projects in this category should explore the validation of the full suite of water budget variable(e.g. streamflow, soil moisture, surface flux) data on local networks; methods for comparing against in-situ observations, or post-processing techniques such as time-lagged ensembles.
  • Anthropogenic processes: Projects in this category should explore methods by which regulation (reservoirs, diversion, consumptive-use) can be either explicitly (e.g. with reservoir models) or implicitly represented in modeling frameworks such as the NWM. The use of data assimilation strategies and applications of computer science approaches such as machine learning is encouraged.
  • Hydro-informatics, visualization and data integration: Projects in this category may include methods for exploring, understanding and managing complex data problems such as the large volume of information within the NWM suite.  Techniques to visualize data and refine complex water resource variables to inform the decision-maker are encouraged, as are methods to integrate NWM output with geospatial flood extent and depth information.
  • Hydrologic Ensembles: Projects in this category should potential aspects to improve or extend the implementation of the Hydrologic Ensemble Forecast Service (HEFS, see http://journals.ametsoc.org/doi/full/10.1175/BAMS-D-12-00081.1, http://www.nws.noaa.gov/oh/hrl/general/HEFS_doc/HEFS_CONOPS_Requirements_Final.pdf).  Specific areas for study and improvement include hydrologic ensemble forecast post-processing (including in regulated river locations), ensemble forcings production, automatic data assimilation techniques, and rule-based application of ensemble forecasts for decision support. 

Eligible Participants

Funding is available to American and Canadian colleges and universities. Researchers at federally funded laboratories, NCAR, and the private sector are not eligible but may participate as unfunded collaborators.

All projects must have one or more primary NWC or other OWP partners who will actively collaborate in the research. Partners are located at the offices in Tuscaloosa, AL; Silver Spring, MD; and Chanhassen, MN. If assistance is needed to identify potential collaborators, contact the OWP Program Manager Sam Contorno at samuel.contorno@noaa.gov. Additional collaborations with NWS River Forecast Centers or NCEP are also encouraged, although not required.

Cooperative Proposals Applications
Two to four, Cooperative Projects (duration 1-2 years) with a maximum funding limit of $40,000 per year each will be awarded. Proposals must be collaborative efforts with the OWP that will advance goals in innovative ways.

There are two deadlines for submissions--a preliminary synopsis and the final proposal:

  1. Project synopsis (see Proposal Submission Guidelines): A one-page proposal synopsis is due to the NWC Program Manager by November 15, 2016 and will be reviewed to ensure it meets program goals and requirements.
  2. Final proposal: Once the synopsis has been approved, the proposal can be developed according to the Proposal Submission Guidelines. Electronic copies of final proposals are due at COMET no later than February 1, 2017. Projects will be selected in a competitive review process.

Review Process and Timeline
NWC Cooperative Projects will be awarded on the basis of a competitive review process that rates each proposal using the following categories:

  1. Extent to which the project meets the OWP mission and objectives (20 points)
  2. Extent to which the project meets Outreach Program objectives of forming collaborative partnerships in applied research (20 points)
  3. Technical and scientific merit (25 points)
  4. University commitment as indicated by resource contributions (10 points)
  5. Commitment of OWP as indicated by staff contributions (10 points)
  6. Cost effectiveness (10 points)
  7. Education/training and outreach activities that disseminate the project results (5 points)
  8. Bonus Points for submitting a 1-year proposal (5 points)

The review panel will consist of OWP representatives, external experts, and members of the COMET staff. The panel is expected to convene in February 2017.
After discussing the proposals, the review panel will submit its recommendations to the Director of COMET, Outreach Program Manager, and OWP Program Management who will make the final award decisions by March 2017.

Successful proposals will be issued a sub-award, which should be in place by April 2017 unless the university and UCAR have significant disagreements over the sub-award language.

Cooperative Project Deliverables
Awardees will be required to submit a semi-annual report and a final report at the end of the award term. Final reports will be posted on the COMET Outreach Program Website.
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