Get to Know OPC - Anthony Siebers
Let's start from the beginning – what first sparked your interest in weather?
I have been interested in weather since I was 9 or 10 years old. I was fascinated by thunderstorms and wondered why they had big raindrops and didn't last very long. As I got older I wanted to understand the broader question of why things work the way they do in the atmosphere. At the same time there was a computer revolution going on in the late 1970's that tied in to displaying and manipulating weather data that really got me excited about what was ahead for weather forecasting. My interest in marine forecasting stems from the vulnerability of ships at sea to weather conditions. People on land can take shelter to avoid severe weather in a way that is not possible for ships at sea. Weather is a critical part of safety at sea and is what drives us to do the best job possible.
Where did you attend college?
I received my Bachelor's degree from the University of Wisconsin – Milwaukee and my Master's Degree from the University of Wisconsin – Madison.
Can you tell us a little bit about your career path from Graduate School leading up to the OPC?
Altogether I have been working 33 years now as a meteorologist, with about 21 years in marine forecasting. I started work out of college with the National Satellite Service (now NESDIS), mainly producing cloud drift winds from movie loops of satellite data over the oceans. I transferred to the NWS in 1981, and worked at the Storm Prediction Center, which was located in Kansas City at the time. I moved back to the Washington DC area and worked as part of OPC for about 5 years before moving to several local Weather Forecast Offices for 19 years. I started at OPC in January of 2011. I applied for the job because I always had a strong interest in marine forecasting and thought OPC would be a great place to work. I was right!
We mentioned it earlier, but can you tell us again your job title? And what are some of your duties?
My job title is Chief of the Ocean Forecast Branch. My duties are to manage the personnel and resources to support our 24 hour a day, seven days a week operation to provide warning and forecast services in our area of responsibility. OPC products are routinely tracked for both accuracy and timeliness, and we have goals for both categories. We typically have around 99% timeliness in our product issuances every month. This is significant, since we issue over 3,000 products every month. Our wind and wave forecasts are part of the overall numbers for the Government Performance and Results Act that are routinely reported to Congress each year. NWS has been exceeding these accuracy goals for the past several years. Another part of my duties is to look at how we can improve our products and services in OPC. I think everyone shares in this duty, since we want to take the forecasters ideas and perspectives into account in how we can improve. This includes listening to our customers to see what their needs are and how we can better meet their needs.
What's one of the best things about being a Meteorologist and working for the OPC?
There is a new challenge every day. The atmosphere is always interesting to me, and there is always something new to learn. I like keeping up with the weather and knowing why things happen the way they do. Our core mission is the protection of life and property, and I know that the OPC contributes to that mission. I like trying to help people get the weather information they need to stay safe, and ultimately it is the desire to help people that is the most satisfying. Here at the OPC and NWS, I like the level of professionalism and commitment from our work force. For most of us, it goes beyond a job and is something that we truly care about. The Weather Service values "service above self" and I see people living up to that value routinely. Everyone who works here contributes to the success of OPC and we have some great people. That makes my job easy.
How about the other side of the coin – what's one of the more difficult aspects of being a Meteorologist?
The hardest thing is when there is a loss of life or property due to weather. Sometimes this occurs even when we have a great forecast. This is part of the reason the Weather Service is emphasizing a "weather ready nation". The idea is to help our customers make sure they are aware of our services and take advantage of information that we have to help plan for extreme weather events. It is also an effort to make sure that we effectively communicate risks to our customers.
Where do you see the field of Meteorology going in the future in terms of forecasting, technology etc.?
I think that the numerical models will continue to improve, and help us to increase our accuracy. There will be more models that couple the ocean and the atmosphere, which will be a big help for OPC. We are already using multiple model runs (ensemble forecasts) rather than a single deterministic model, and that will increase in the future. We will also issue more probabilistic forecasts that take advantage of ensemble model runs. Our forecasts will be issued in a gridded format so that the amount of detail that will be available will increase dramatically. We will also likely expand our forecasts further into the future. As models improve, our forecast will be extended out 7 to 10 days.
You mentioned accuracy – where do you think we are heading in the next five, ten years in regards to accuracy?
The best prediction for where we are headed is based on past improvements. Our accuracy has been steadily improving, based in part on improved science and in part on improved computer models. In the last few years our accuracy has been leveling off, so we are looking forward to better use of ensemble forecasts and more computer processing capability to help us push our accuracy higher.
Is there anything on your "wish list"?
I would like to see the OPC make the transition to gridded marine forecasts. This will be a major step forward and allow us to give better service to the marine community. I would also like to see the weather information delivery system improved such that we can deliver improved graphical products to ships at sea. In addition, I would like to see us get to the point of having gridded forecast data for the entire Atlantic and Pacific Oceans that is based on forecaster improvements to model forecasts.
Outside of the office what are some things you like to do in your spare time?
I am always checking the weather even when I am at home. This does not seem to be a job that you can forget when you leave the office. But outside of meteorology, I love football, traveling and hiking, especially in National Parks. My son works for the National Park Service and I try to visit him at the numerous parks where he works. He always lines up some great hikes for us.