Unidata's GEMPAK/NAWIPS Migration FAQ


A. GEMPAK, the GEneral Meteorology PAcKage, is an analysis, display, and product generation package for meteorological data. It is developed by NCEP (the National Centers for Environmental Prediction) for use by the National Centers (Storm Prediction Center, Tropical Prediction Center, Aviation Weather Center, Hydrologic Prediction Center, Marine Prediction Center, Environmental Modeling Center, etc.) in producing operational forecast and analysis products such as those distributed as Redbook Graphics and others displayed on the National Weather Service (NWS) web pages and utilized internally within the centers. Graphical User Interfaces (GUIs) provide convenient access to interactive data manipulation. A comprehensive set of decoders enables integration of real-time and archive data, products, and bulletins. The GEMPAK distribution consists of a suite of application programs, GUIs, meteorologic computation libraries, graphic display interfaces, and device drivers for the decoding, analysis, display and diagnosis of geo-referenced and meteorological data.

2. What is Unidata's role in all this?

A. The Unidata Program Center distributes and provides support for GEMPAK to our member sites. Membership in Unidata is open to U.S. colleges and universities, and is free of charge. GEMPAK is also available as unsupported software without charge to organizations which do not participate in Unidata through the limitations specified in the Unidata participation policy. The UPC release of GEMPAK/NAWIPS incorporates several additions developed both locally and at other locations to enhance the use of real-time data aquired through the Unidata IDD, and through instructional case studies such as those developed at COMET. It includes GARP (GEMPAK Analysis and Rendering Program) which was developed by COMET.

3. Why is NCEP moving away from GEMPAK?

A. The National Weather Service announced plans in 2007 to cease development of NAWIPS in August 2008 and proceed with a migration of the functionality of that package to the new AWIPS II environment. The decision to migrate NAWIPS to AWIPS II was made unilaterally by NWS. Since NCEP's primary goal is to support the National Centers, Unidata had no input on this decision.

4. What is AWIPS II?

A. The National Weather Service is in the process of developing the next generation of its AWIPS software (AWIPS II) to provide a comprehensive package in support of its forecasting and public service operations. This new software will be developed in Java, allowing it to run on more platforms than the current AWIPS software. Many of the underlying technologies in AWIPS II will be based on open source projects and the plan is to make AWIPS II software also open source. Currently, the NWS National Centers and NWS field forecast offices use different tools to support their mission, with the National Centers using NAWIPS, and NWS forecast offices use AWIPS, which is fundamentally different and not compatible with NAWIPS. The new AWIPS II architecture will allow the NWS to reduce development time, expand data access and provide better integration and collaboration between the NWS field offices, river forecast centers and National Centers.

5. Who is developing AWIPS II?

A. Raytheon is responsible for developing the underlying infrastructure for AWIPS II and migrating the existing AWIPS functionality into that infrastructure. NCEP is responsible for migrating the existing GEMPAK/NAWIPS functionality into the AWIPS II framework.

6. What are the recommended system requirements for AWIPS II?

A. The AWIPS II installation procedure has been tested on 32 bit Red Hat 4.6, Red Hat 5.0 and CentOS 4.7 Linux systems. At this time it has not been tested on x86_64 bit Linux or Solaris platforms. Since AWIPS II is currently under development, the recommended system specifications below (as given by NCEP) will likely change as testing continues.
System: 32 bit Red Hat Enterprise Linux 5
Video: 256 MB video memory, OpenGL 2.x support (CAVE appears to run best with Nvidia)
Disk: 10-20 GB; disk space depends on the amount of data stored.
Network: An active network connection outside of AWIPS II is required.

7. What is NCEP's plan for NAWIPS/GEMPAK?

A. NCEP intends to migrate all NAWIPS/GEMPAK functionality to AWIPS II and intends to make AWIPS II available to the Unidata community.

8. How long will the UPC support GEMPAK?

A. Unidata plans to support the last version of the current GEMPAK/NAWIPS software for 18 months after the first official release of AWIPS II by NCEP to the National Centers and to the Unidata community.

9. Why doesn't the UPC support GEMPAK forever?

A. Historically, the UPC has relied heavily on and leveraged the efforts of several (5+) software developers at NCEP to advance GEMPAK while making local enhancements to address the needs of Unidata users. NCEP developers addressed data stream changes, added new features to the NAWIPS GUI programs, GEMPAK programs and libraries, and provided bug fixes. The UPC has always dedicated (and continues to dedicate) one staff member for the development of additional functionality required by the community and to support porting to more platforms than NCEP. NCEP will no longer be developing GEMPAK/NAWIPS and Unidata does not have the same resources that NCEP had to continue development on its own to address new data types or datastream and operating system changes.

10. When the UPC stops supporting GEMPAK, can I still use it?

A. The GEMPAK source code is freely available and will still be accessible in some form after the UPC ends official support. It will not stop working on any certain date. Furthermore, the existing support materials (tutorial, help manual and documentation) will still be available on line. The gembud mailing list will be kept active so GEMPAK users can provide community support to each other.

11. Can I get an early copy of AWIPS-II for testing and evaulation?

A. Unidata has been provided access to ongoing AWIPS-II releases and updates hosted by the NCEP System Integration Branch, in order to evaluate, test and document the hardware and software requirements for the GEMPAK/NAWIPS community. In early 2011 NCEP will begin system and field OTE (operation testing & evaluation) for the National Centers, with the first national deployment of AWIPS-II currently scheduled for September 2011. Unidata plans to provide AWIPS-II to a subset of the GEMPAK community for testing and evaluation before this scheduled release date, though the exact time when this will happen is still unknown. Unidata is currently held under an non-disclosure agreement with respect to AWIPS-II, which restricts us from "sharing" development copies and source code. We are hopeful that before the scheduled national deployment date of September 2011 we will be allowed to distribute evaluation copies to the community for site testing. The ultimate goal will be Unidata's release of AWIPS-II coinciding with the NCEP release to the National Centers. This means that the Unidata community will have available to it the full software package, installation and configuration documentation, and the help of Unidata support staff to assist with the migration.