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Univ. of Colorado--Denver: "WFO flood impact features spatial database"

Final Report


This report summarizes activities conducted in cooperation with the Denver WFO forecasters on training and development of a hydrologic and flood impact features spatial database for the forecast region. Training was conducted on the use of the popular desktop GIS (geographic information systems) software ArcView. Independent application of ArcView was accomplished by the forecasters in retrieving map coverage over the Internet, and collating those coverages into a collection of coverages for their area of interest. CU Denver graduate students visited the WFO Denver offices on Smith Road, were presented with a demonstration of the WFO-Advanced workstation and discussed how the workstation data sets supported weather forecasting operations. CU Denver graduate students also conducted spatial data collections from Internet sources, and compiled a hydrologic and flood impact features spatial database for the WFO Denver region. That data has been compiled on a CD for distribution.


2.1 Objectives of Proposed Research

Objectives of the proposed research include the following

2.2 Introduction

The purpose of this COMET Partners project was to work with the WFO Denver forecasters to develop high-resolution mappings of WFO flash flood operations impact features. CU at Denver's GIS Program is a recognized leader in the region in education and training in GIS. UCD's FAST (Facility for Advanced Spatial Analysis and Teaching) Lab has a site license for the popular software ArcView, and offers short courses and training in ArcView use. Also, graduate student activities at the FAST Lab have established a statewide spatial database consisting of available public digital mappings; this database was used to supply some of the data initially desired by the WFO. Additional data were developed by the WFO forecasters using PC-based GIS tools like ArcView, and CU Denver provided training for the forecasters to do this.

2.3 Description of Research/Development Accomplishments

2.3.1 Design of the Hydrologic and Flood Impact Features Spatial Database

The WFO Denver forecast region was taken to be bounded by the window -104° W to -106° W and from 39° N to 41° N (See Figure below). This area extends for the Palmer Divide near Colorado Springs north to Cheyenne, Wyo., and from east of Limon west to the Continental Divide.

Coverages of various themes were to be developed for the region. Each coverage was required to be in decimal degrees for projection so that overlays of the themes could be accomplished.

Census Blocks
Coastal Shoreline
Coastal Water
Congressional Districts
County (1995 Boundaries)
County (1990 Boundaries)
Census Transportation Planning Package Areas
Census Block Groups
American Indian Reservations
Key Geographic Locations
Land and Water Outlines
Landmark Areas
Minor Civil Divisions (1990)
Minor Civil Divisions (1995)
Places (1990)
Places (1995)
Unified School Districts
Elementary School Districts
Secondary School Districts
Middle School Districts
Traffic Analysis Zones
Census Tracts
Urban Areas
Urban and Rural Outlines
Voting Districts (1990)
Water Bodies
Lines-Ridge Lines and Fences
Lines-Utility Lines
1990 Census Block Demographics
1990 Census Block Group Demographics
1990 Census Tract Demographics
Alternate Street Names

2.3.2 Develop Spatial Database Procedures

Within this study area, several GIS data sets were collected; such as, radar-rainfall data, digital elevation model data (DEMs), soils, watersheds and stream network, roads, and county boundaries. The first step in this study was to develop a GIS coverage that would represent the study area and could be used in the various overlay processes with other data layers. The Environmental Systems Research Institute's (ESRI) ARC/INFO or ArcView and the public domain raster-based Geographical Resources Analysis Support System (GRASS) were used to generate and process the GIS used in this report.

Procedures were developed for defining the region of interest, collecting data from various public sources over the Internet, formatting that data for consistency, and archiving all coverages in the chosen format.

2.3.3 Provide Training for WFO Denver Staff

A 3-day training program on GIS procedures for spatial database development was conducted by CU Denver at the WFO Denver. The training was conducted on February 1-3, 1999 at the Denver WFO. WFO Denver attendees included Robert Kleyla, Robert Koopmeiners, Robert Glancy, Larry Tunnell, and Eric Thaler. CU Denver participants included Ellery "Brook" Wilson, Mildred Powell, Marcia Walker and Prof. Lynn Johnson.

The first phase of the training program was on the ArcView GIS software. The program involved use of a training guide, Getting to Know ArcView GIS (ESRI, 1997). Exercises 1-14 (Figure 1) were covered with UCD trainer support.
The program was supplemented by hands-on computer use of the GIS software for WFO spatial database development. Procedures were demonstrated and reviewed for accessing selected public federal and local GIS data sources on the web, downloading the data, ingesting the data into ArcView, and merging with other coverages for the WFO region.

It is noteworthy that the WFO forecasters demonstrated good capabilities for using ArcView and in developing the GIS database.


SECTION 1 ArcView GIS basics

Chapter 7 Introducing ArcView GIS
Chapter 8 Getting data into ArcView GIS
Chapter 9 Classifying and displaying themes
Chapter 10 Symbolizing themes

SECTION 2 Working with spatial data

Chapter 11 Measuring distance and area in a view
Chapter 12 Managing scale

SECTION 3 Querying data

Chapter 13 Selecting map features in a view
Chapter 14 Selecting records in a table

SECTION 4 Managing tabular data

Chapter 15 Displaying and editing tables
Chapter 16 Joining, linking, and hot linking

SECTION 5 Analyzing spatial relationships

Chapter 17 Finding the features nearby
Chapter 18 Finding the features within
Chapter 19 Finding features that intersect other features
Chapter 20 Spatially joining tables

SECTION 6 Presenting information

Chapter 21 Working with charts
Chapter 22 Creating map layouts

SECTION 7 Creating your own data

Chapter 23 Creating shapefiles
Chapter 24 Editing shapes in a theme
Chapter 25 Creating themes from coordinate files
Chapter 26 Address geocoding

SECTION 8 Customizing ArcView GIS

Chapter 27 Introducing Avenue

Reference: ESRI. 1997. Getting to Know ArcView: The GIS for Everyone. Prentice-Hall. ISBN: 0138954674.

2.3.4 Conduct Spatial Database Development

A preliminary dataset and information about coverages were provided by Milly Powell on Feb. 10, 1999 at the Stapleton Weather Station. Approximately 300 megabytes of data were downloaded from a Jaz drive, and approximately one hour of orientation to the data was provided. On-going technical support has been provided by Marcia Walker through a website and e-mail support. Telephone support has been provided by Milly Powell. Final data documentation and delivery is targeted for July 1999. The final dataset is approximately 430 Megabytes, with approximately 30 pages of paper documentation, including web citations to more information.


3.1 WFO Demonstration of AWIPS Forecast Operations

On December 15, 1998 CU Denver graduate students visited the WFO Denver offices on Smith Road, were presented with a demonstration of the WFO-Advanced workstation and discussed how the workstation data sets supported weather forecasting operations.

3.2 ArcView Training Program

The ArcView training program was described above. It involved a number of on-site visitations by the graduate students with the forecasters at WFO Denver on Smith Road.

3.3 WFO Flood Impact Features Spatial Database Development

Development of the spatial database involved a variety of communications and exchanges between the forecasters and UCD graduate students. In addition to the ArcView training sessions there were e-mail exchanges and telephone conversations. UCD established web site for data exchanges, but this was used very much.


4.1 Report on Hydrologic and Flood Impact Features Spatial Database for WFO Denver.

The full report on the spatial database development procedures and coverage metadata is appended to this report.

4.2 CU Denver GIS Symposium.

The annual CU Denver GIS Symposium was held on June 5 at the Auraria campus. Graduate students presented their GIS research and project work at the workshop; two of the presentations were based on the subject spatial database development project.


5.1 University's Perspective

This project provided UCD GIS graduate students with first-hand exposure to the development of spatial databases for a life-critical public safety application. The students benefited from the field visit to review the WFO Advanced forecasting system. They also benefited in discussing the types of data desired by the forecasters on flood impact features. The interaction of students and forecasters was considered very valuable and relevant, and further interactions off this sort were desired by the students.

5.2 NWS Perspective

The UCD GIS training provided an excellent introduction to forecasters at Denver. One forecaster (i.e., Kleyla) has applied this training and spent numerous hours using GIS in developing enhanced background maps for use in AWIPS. The next step would be to get these maps and other databases developed by UCD graduate students incorporated into AWIPS as soon as possible. Meanwhile some advanced GIS training may provide some benefits to forecasters at Denver as well.