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 resources information and decision support services. 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.
  • Expand remote sensing and citizen science for river and stream channel geometries to improve flood mapping.  Emerging technologies in aircraft borne radar provide the potential to accelerate the estimation of stream channel geometry (e.g. location and height of banks, below surface stream beds, and floodplain width.) These measurements are critical input to water resources models and water level and flood extent estimation techniques.  Additionally, recent engagements with the academic community suggest that elements of citizen science could also be leveraged to “crowd source” critical chanel geometry data both through direct measurements or image capture and analysis.
  • 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 represent complex water resources information to aid decision support services, such as the characterization and representation of uncertainty, are desired.  Methods to integrate NWM output with geospatial flood extent and depth information are also encouraged.
  • 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 non-OWP funded collaborators.

All projects must have one or more primary NWC or other OWP collaborators and are encouraged to have one or more River Forecast Center (RFC) partners who will actively collaborate in the research. If assistance is needed to identify potential collaborators, contact the OWP Program Manager Sam Contorno at samuel.contorno@noaa.gov.

Cooperative Proposal Applications
Two to four, Cooperative Projects (duration 1-2 years) with a maximum funding limit of $45,000 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:

  • Project synopsis (see Proposal Submission Guidelines): A one-page proposal synopsis is due to the OWP Program Manager by October 22, 2018 and will be reviewed to ensure it meets program goals and requirements.
  • 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 January 18, 2019. 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:

  • Extent to which the project meets the OWP mission and objectives (20 points)
  • Extent to which the project meets Outreach Program objectives of forming collaborative partnerships in applied research (20 points)
  • Technical and scientific merit (25 points)
  • University commitment as indicated by resource contributions (10 points)
  • Commitment of OWP as indicated by staff contributions (10 points)
  • Cost effectiveness (10 points)
  • Education/training and outreach activities that disseminate the project results (5 points)


  • 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 early 2019.

After discussing the proposals, the review panel will submit its recommendations to the Director of COMET, Outreach Program Administrator, and OWP Program Management who will make the final award decisions by March 2019.

Successful proposals will be issued a sub-award, which should be in place by May 2019 unless the university and UCAR have significant disagreements over the sub-award language.

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


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