The National Weather Service (NWS) strives to use the latest
technologies available to disseminate climate, water, and weather information
in gridded, graphical, and text form. NWS policy is the NWS suite of information
is to be disseminated in various formats and media (see below) appropriate
to the needs of customers in an equitable and open manner. The NWS vision
for communicating information to users is to:
Accordingly, NWS develops basic products and services
to support the safety and efficiency of the public's and broad user groups'
activities on land, at sea and in the air. In addition, NWS supports private
sector efforts to develop complementary services (e.g., products, communication
services, information capabilities) that offer users access to the most
complete hydrometeorological information possible.
Timely access to weather information is provided through
NWS systems, including the
The following is a summary of the services above to help
you make an informed decision about the service best for you. Each summary
includes links to information on type of data available, format, costs,
reliability, speed, needed equipment, and how to obtain service.
NOAA Weather Radio (NWR) broadcasts NWS warnings, watches, forecasts and other hazard information
24 hours a day. NWR is the prime alerting and critical information delivery
system of the NWS. Known as the "voice of the National Weather Service",
NWR is provided as a public service. The cost to the user is the price
of an NWR receiver, which varies from $20 to $200.
The NWR network has more than 900 stations in the 50 states and near adjacent coastal waters, Puerto Rico, the U.S.
Virgin Islands and U.S. Pacific Territories.
Weather radios equipped with a special alarm tone feature
can sound an alert and give you immediate information about a life-threatening
situation. During an emergency, routine weather radio programming will
be interrupted to send out the special tone that activates weather radios
in the listening area. The hearing- and visually-impaired also can get
these warnings by connecting weather radios with alarm tones to other
kinds of attention-getting devices like strobe lights, pagers, bed-shakers,
personal computers and text printers.
The ultimate goal is to create a system that is more responsive
to local and community needs. This would include breaking out of the constraints
of cycled programming and moving into a scheduled mode where users could
tune in at selected times to receive the information they require.
In the near term, the NWS supports :
- Former Vice President Gore's initiative to increase the NWR network
to reach potentially 95 percent of the population from the
current 85 to 90 percent
- the expansion of NWR into an all hazards network that works with
multi-agency partnerships to deliver pre- and post-event information
in support of disaster response and recovery
- working to get more NWR receivers in automobiles, schools, and hospitals
- using Specific Area
Message Encoding (SAME) digital protocols to deliver, at user-selected
options, specific information to specific areas as well as providing
the point of entry into the Emergency Alert
For the intermediate and long terms, the NWS will develop
operational methodologies to best utilize the Console
Replacement System (CRS) in a manner to interweave scheduled programming
with event driven warning and critical information operations. The delivery
of text and graphics over NWR will be standardized and implemented to
support the needs of special populations as well as emergency management
and other entities involved in the warning and response processes.
Weather Wire Service (NWWS) provides the most reliable and timely
warning delivery system available from the NWS.
The NWWS broadcast includes a full
suite of text products that are issued by NWS
and the National Centers
for Environmental Prediction (NCEP). These products include weather,
water, and climate warnings, watches, and forecasts, as well as plain
language observation summaries. In 2000, significant NWWS system enhancements
were implemented which allow reception of limited graphic and gridded
products, provides an improved user interface, and allows use of a standard
Windows™ PC to select and monitor weather products. The delivery time
of watches and warnings via NWWS is specified at 10 seconds or less 98%
of the time.
For more information, contact the government's contractor for NWWS service, CSC, at (703)-818-5447. CSC offers three options for receiving NWWS products: C-band, Internet Service, or Value Added Internet service. The benefits and costs of each option are explained on the CSC NWWS web site.
Managers Weather Information Network (EMWIN) offers an economical
way to receive all products available on the NWWS,
plus graphical forecasts and select satellite data. Compared to the NWWS,
typically, an additional broadcast delay of 5 to 20 seconds can be expected
for watches and warnings, as compared to the NWWS delay described above.
The EMWIN system is monitored on 24 hours per day, 7 days a week, and
has an estimated availability of at least 99%. EMWIN systems are available
from many private
industry suppliers. The service itself is free. As a satellite broadcast
system, there are short outages of several minutes duration (60 minutes
worst case) during a 3 to 4 day satellite eclipse period which occurs
in the spring and fall. The NWWS has backup provisions for such occurrences,
whereas EMWIN does not. A backup data source, such as the Internet,
might be considered during such scheduled outages.
EMWIN is a nonproprietary operational dissemination system developed in the Office of Operational
Systems (OPS) primarily for the emergency management community. It
provides a continuous, dedicated low speed data broadcast of up to 5,000
pages per day using an audio signal from the GOES
satellite or terrestrial retransmitter. The EMWIN datastream consists of:
- real-time weather warnings, watches, advisories, forecasts,
- a subset of alphanumeric products for each state,
- a limited suite of non-value added graphical products, and
- some satellite imagery
End user software provides a friendly environment to monitor the weather,
set alarms, autoprint, etc., from a personal computer.
To receive and make use of the EMWIN datastream, a user
must be in acceptable signal range (up to about 40 miles from a transmitter)
- at a minimum, a 80386 or 80486 personal computer with DOS 5.0 or
greater and Windows 3.1 or greater;
- a relatively inexpensive portable receiver with antenna based on NOAA Weather Radio modified
to receive the transmitted frequency; and
- a custom built, but inexpensive demodulator that receives the signal
from the receiver and feeds it to the serial port of the user's computer
The EMWIN datastream was designed to run at minimal cost
to the NWS and at no recurring costs to users in range of the signal.
Basic software developed, but unsupported, by the NWS to meet minimum
needs of users is available for free, and can be downloaded
from the Internet. Low cost, supported commercial software with more
features is available.
The EMWIN datastream can effectively meet the needs of
public safety managers, schools, and special needs groups such as the
deaf and hearing impaired for direct and timely access to large amounts
of weather and warning information. NWS has identified EMWIN as one of
a number of dissemination technologies in a multilayered approach that
the NWS must use to meet its goal of maximizing the dissemination of its
warning and forecast information.
Interactive Weather Information
Network (IWIN) is an Internet site with real-time data very similar
to EMWIN data.
It is open to any and all users and contains real-time warnings in addition
to many routine NWS products. IWIN
depends on the availability of the Internet, which is not always reliable
during major weather events due to connection problems either at the user
end or at NOAA/NWS due to current Internet bandwidth limitations. The
types of data available on IWIN include all standard warnings, watches,
advisories, and routine data including state forecasts, short term forecasts
(nowcasts), zone forecasts, graphical forecasts, select satellite data,
and most routine NWS products. Cost to the user is normal access to a
personal computer and access to Internet. The service itself is free.
The NOAAPORT broadcast system provides a one-way broadcast of a comprehensive suite
of NWS and NOAA environmental data and information in near-real time to NOAA and external
users. This broadcast service is implemented by a commercial provider
of satellite communications utilizing C-band. The NOAAPORT
web site includes a technical description of the system, sample products,
a list of equipment manufacturers, and NWS contacts for further information.
of Services (FOS) is a collection of data communication services,
listed below. Each service offers a unique subset of NWS products and data, and is described in more detail on the FOS
web page. The FOS provides access to all NWS data and information
at minimal cost recovery to private sector organizations who then repackage
and tailor it for specific clients. The services are accessible via dedicated
telecommunications lines from the Washington D.C. area. Users may obtain
any of the individual services from the NWS for a one-time connection
charge and an annual user fee to recover FOS costs to the Government.
Products Service (RPS) joined the FOS offerings on October 1, 2000.
The RPS provides direct user access to WSR-88D radar products in real-time. All radar products that the NWS centrally
collects are available on the RPS.
For more information, contact Julie Hayes at (301) 713-0880
ext. 120 or Julie.Hayes@noaa.gov.
The National Weather
Service (NWS) views electronic networks such as Interactive
Weather Information Network (IWIN) on the Internet as tremendous way
to share information by making all data and information available to interested
parties. However, digital data, unlike printed data or analog information,
is easily altered in a way that cannot be detected and it is difficult
to guarantee the origin, timeliness, authenticity, or accuracy of network
In the near term, policy will be developed to underscore
the non-operational aspect of electronic networks as well as guidelines
for consistent formats that will enhance the image of the NWS. For the
intermediate and long terms, all NWS
offices will be encouraged to use electronic networks to their fullest
with minimal basic guidelines for its use. The intent is to encourage
innovation and creativity.
The use of telephone systems falls into two broad categories:
emergency operations and public service. For emergency operations,
near term actions include implementing a national forecast and warning
coordination hotline with capabilities to conduct multiple coordination
calls between National
Weather Service (NWS) offices as well as between NWS offices and emergency
management warning points and operations centers. The next generation
National Warning System (NAWAS) will provide such a voice communication
Among the most crucial elements of managing NWS' field
operations is coordination and communication. Having communications hardware
that is intuitive and user friendly, flexible and powerful, is elemental
to a successful MAR. Voice communications need to work in consonance with
AWIPS inter-site coordination capabilities to enable field meteorologists
and hydrologists to communicate and exchange both ideas and information.
The structure and flexibility of a system like NAWAS is
important to the NWS more now than ever before. The need is especially
prominent as the NWS changes how it prepares and issues watches for severe
local storms. As the NWS migrates from the National Center concept, substantial
coordination will be required, both internally within the NWS and externally
between the NWS and the emergency management community.
Unlisted 1-800 numbers were placed at each Weather
Forecast Office to be used by emergency management officials and entities
supporting the warning process who do not have drops on the forecast coordination
hot line. Similarly, video teleconferencing capabilities will be implemented
between the National Centers for Environmental
Prediction (NCEP), NWS
Headquarters offices, and appropriate Federal agencies. In the intermediate
and long terms, video teleconferencing will be extended to all NWS offices
to support both internal and external forecast coordination. The NWS Office
of Climate, Water, and Weather Services will work with the Federal
Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) to reduce the need for unlisted
1-800 numbers by the emergency management community.
For public access, the NWS supports the ability of the public to call their local
office and to receive weather information by phone. In the near term,
options will be explored to provide menu options for various recorded
messages as well as the ability to talk to a human during normal business
hours. Persons requesting repeated special forecast information will be
advised to seek the services of the private meteorological community.
Telephone service to the public will not be expanded in the intermediate
and long terms since other options including NOAA
Weather Radio, the next generation of the NOAA
Weather Wire Service, Internet,
and the private sector offer
Special Populations Dissemination Initiatives
The National Weather
Service (NWS) has made it a priority to provide warning services for
the hearing, visually, and mobility impaired. With the enactment of the
Americans with Disabilities Act, the NWS is reviewing how it provides
warning and preparedness information to disabled citizens. The NWS supports
creative, collaborative solutions to meet the information needs of special
populations and to communicate innovative efforts throughout the agency. Local NWS forecast
offices and Regional
Headquarters are encouraged to enter into partnerships to provide
services to special populations
Such efforts will include support of NWS communications
to special populations; education for special populations; media coordination
of warnings for the hearing impaired; telecommunications device for the
deaf; community warning systems for special populations; and the coordination
of Federal interagency efforts to meet the warning and preparedness needs
of special populations.
The Office of Climate,
Water, and Weather Services (OCWWS) will coordinate with Weather
Forecast Offices (WFOs), River
Forecast Centers (RFCs), Regional
Headquarters, the National Centers
for Environmental Prediction (NCEP), and other National
Weather Service (NWS) offices to provide two-way communication of
critical information with emergency managers and other public officials
at the state and local levels. This supports forming weather warning partnerships
in each WFO's county warning area. Such partnerships are crucial to provide
consistent, coordinated public warnings. State and local communications
and information systems can be better used to transmit critical weather
- Utilizing all that the upgraded National Warning System (NAWAS)
system has to offer, including such alternatives as the dissemination
of digitized alphanumeric and graphic information;
- Determining the future of NAWAS and what alternatives exist in its
- ensuring local communications capability in the NWS modernized county
warning area configuration;
- Exploring evolving systems such as the National Law Enforcement
Telecommunication System and Florida's Emergency Satellite Communications
- Working with state and local agencies to develop standard methods
of communicating information; and working to support the use of Internet
for making preparedness and emergency information available to multiple
- Working with Federal agencies to support the use of video teleconferencing
technology as a medium by which agencies share graphical information
Development of Hazard Community Shared Information Systems
The Office of Climate,
Water, and Weather Services (OCWWS) will coordinate research to develop
technologies to share gridded, graphical, and alphanumeric information
and data on critical weather and flood conditions with state and local
officials. The goal is to facilitate the rapid communication of information
among members of the hazards community (e.g., emergency managers, spotters,
law enforcement, flood plain managers) and Weather
Forecast Offices (WFOs) throughout the country. The NOAA Emergency
Management Weather Information Project is designed to work with users
to develop these capabilities in a user-oriented research project at NOAA's Forecast
Systems Laboratory (FSL).