This is an assessment of the structure and organization of the Coordination Center (COC) Bad Ragaz. The details of this structure are not repeated here, but can be found on the Web by following the appropriate links to the FORM (Foehn in the Rhine Valley during MAP) field activities. Now, about half a year after the field experiment, a look back seems appropriate. The items addressed here are my choice as former Master Coordinator (MASTCOD) of the COC; I selected those that I regard as important. The information given represents my personal view.
In summary: The Coordination Center COC was established in Bad Ragaz for "the overall coordination within FORM" (Terms of Reference for the COC). Each person in the COC had its well-defined task; the mechanisms within the Center, among its staff, and between the different units in the field were clearly defined.
The number of instrumented sites within the responsibility of the COC was formidable: More than 20 locations were equipped with special instrumentation other than just classical surface stations; the most distant station was on the Julier Pass, nearly two hours driving time away. In addition, classical surface data was collected at about 30 additional stations, some of them operated by public or private meteorological services, others by research groups active in the Target Area Rhine Valley (TA RV). Many of the stations had to be maintained by COC staff, others were simply monitored. About a dozen different research groups were active in the TA RV. From these, status reports were collected, and they had to be alerted according to a progressive alert scheme whenever the COC recommended an observing period suitable for the objectives studied within the TA RV.
A major part of the COC activities was the continuous operation of five to seven upper air stations. This was primarily accomplished by military units. During the SOP, they alone launched about 1300 radiosondes; more than 5000 person-days were needed for this.
The co-location of the Military Command center with the actual Coordination Center proved to be an extremely helpful arrangement! This way, communications links were kept short and a dialogue was always possible, problems could be sorted out and solved without delay. In addition, this arrangement was also very cost-effective. However, local authorities had to get used to the fact that civilians and military personnel not only worked within the same building, shared rooms and equipment, but also slept and ate under the same roof.
The cooperation with local construction and installation companies was without problems. In fact, they supported us greatly with generous offers for temporary installations where they took back the hardware at nearly nominal cost. Also the local authorities assisted us by interpreting their own codes and rules in a rather broad sense.
Figure 1. The so-called "multi purpose building" (Mehrzweckgebäude) in Bad Ragaz, with COC offices on the first floor. It houses fire engines, fire fighting equipment, communal vehicles for road cleaning, water works maintenance etc., civil defense equipment, as well as office space and quarters for the military.
The communications links proved to be quite adequate. Military communication links were only used for inserting data from high-altitude upper-air stations into the GTS. Apart from that, all research groups and the military units used civilian data links such as telephone, fax, and Internet. Mentioning that the Internet proved to be the most versatile means seems almost unnecessary.
Nearly until the very end of the field phase, we had problems to obtain information from the different research groups about the status of their instrumentation and observations. It never became quite clear why this difficulty existed. Looking back, it seems that people were not sensitive enough to the importance of this type of information. Very likely there was also a lack of proper briefing at the beginning of the SOP.
The COC was linked with the other major MAP Centers (COC, POC, MDC, and the MAP Network Centre MNC) via Internet and dedicated ISDN lines. Apart from minor problems, these connections worked very well. At the COC, there was a mirror site of the MAP MDC server that allowed quick access to recent data.
Within the COC, a local area network (COC LAN) operated flawlessly during the entire campaign. It was extremely helpful for all the civilian and military personnel. Thanks to this network, military personnel could accomplish much of the data quality checking during idle time. A great help was also the continuous presence of a computer and network expert (the Data Coordinator DATCOD) at the COC, thanks to her prompt reactions to any problem, there was never any significant communication or data problem.
We were warned, and we knew that there would be problems, nevertheless, they sometimes annoyed us! The concept of having "an IOP" for the Target Area Rhine Valley did neither fit the instrumentation nor the observation strategy developed. There was, e.g., Foehn in the Rhine Valley outside an IOP, on the other hand, there were, of course, IOPs with no Foehn. But many more problems posed the fact that--due to limitations in personnel and resources--observations had to be activated in what was called segments. In practice, observational equipment was grouped and, depending on the weather situation, on the necessary lead-time, on the available resources, etc. activated by the COC.
Here it proved to be a disadvantage that information was so freely available: Originally, the COC abstained from defining its own alerting levels and procedures in order to be in line with those issued by the MOC. Subsequently, there were a number of misunderstandings, particularly when e-mails intended for specific groups within the TA RV were, by strange mechanisms, circulated within the entire MAP community! If there is anything I could change in "another MAP", I would give this issue top priority!
Another previously known shortcoming was the lack of a direct representation of the COC in the MOC. It was most probably for the first time that a field experiment of this complexity was coordinated not by a single, central office, but from three different places. Thanks to modern communication means, the exchange of information was not limited by the technical means, however, human nature has to be considered, too. Because no representative was present at the MOC to participate in the mission planning, the interests of the groups in the TA Rhine Valley had to be defended by someone else. Depending on the personnel constellation at the MOC, this was accomplished with greatly varying success. Although it must be regretted that the situation did not allow having a COC liaison person at the MOC, I would--under the same circumstances--again decide for the structure as it was. The staff at the COC was badly needed. The outstanding job accomplished by these few persons would have been severely endangered if one of them had been dislocated to the MOC.
At some point, the question was raised whether the Aircraft Support (ASUP) person was really necessary. Looking back, it could be argued that the few missions flown in the TA Rhine Valley did not justify this position, however, it was exactly during these missions when the COC became very busy. The ASUP could really keep the backs of the different coordinators free; at the same time he could devote his time fully to the aircraft missions. The accurate logs of all events and circumstances during the flights would not have been obtained without this person.
Despite the negative remarks made, the main accomplishment should not be forgotten: During the MAP SOP an absolutely unique data set was collected! Let's just mention what we called the "background" operation of the radiosonde stations: Never before were that many radiosonde stations operated over such a long time in such a dense network. The unique composite observing system -- combining continuous remote sensing systems with precise in-situ observations -- produced a data set that will keep us busy for many years. The FORM Web site lists the available data and the quality control procedures applied. Instrument down time was much less than expected from experience in other field campaigns.
All this was only possible because of an extremely cooperative atmosphere among the international research community that gathered in the TA RV. Of course there were disputes about the observing philosophy, but these were always solved by scientific reasoning in an often busy, but always friendly and pleasant atmosphere. In addition to the daily briefings of the military and the COC staff, meetings were scheduled spontaneously whenever necessary. This practice required flexibility of all the persons involved, however, looking back, the efficiency of such spontaneous personal gatherings was definitely higher than that of "discussions" by e-mail or by having fixed meetings.
Finally, the weather must be mentioned as our best ally: As we all know, we were extremely lucky, and we should admit that all our efforts would have been in vain without the great cooperation of nature !
The motivation of the troops was generally a very good one. Bearing in mind that the soldiers --unlike the researchers--had hardly any direct interest in the work they were doing, this positive attitude could not necessarily be expected. Consequently, every unit that started its service period (on average for two weeks) was given an introductory briefing of about 90 minutes. The objectives of MAP in general and the goals pursued in the TA RV were presented together with some scientific background about the meteorological phenomena involved. In an additional part of the briefing, the importance of the observations made by the military, and information on the additional equipment, the special telecommunication means, etc. was given.
The goodwill among the local residents was very high. Undoubtedly, this was the result of the efforts to inform the authorities of every community where observing systems were deployed, and to contact and inform landowners etc. about the project and the observing campaign. In addition, the local press strongly supported our case. The COC organized an "open house"-day with presentations of the MAP objectives, poster exhibitions, demonstrations of observing systems--and military volunteers ran a restaurant... Several additional, special information events were organized for invited military and civilian persons as well as for the media.
All that remains at this point is to thank everybody involved. This includes the local authorities and craftsmen who gave us most valuable support in every possible way; it also includes the local residents at the different observing sites who provided not only space and power for instrumentation, but often even free food and lodging! A big "thank you" goes to the military that, for once, ignored many of its own rules and orders and gave first priority to the needs of us scientists. In addition, it provided us -- free of charge! -- with a service and with dispensable material (radiosondes) that we could never have afforded. I want to thank all the members of the different research groups for their friendly cooperation, and I want to thank the colleagues at the MOC and the MDC for the support we received from there. My final but most personal "thank you" goes to all my colleagues who shared a most memorable and rewarding time at the COC itself. I am very pleased to see that the spirit developed during the MAP SOP persists, it stimulates the preparation and analysis of the data gathered in this unique experiment. I am looking forward to a continuation of a rewarding cooperation!