Q1. What is NOAA Weather Radio
NOAA Weather Radio All Hazards is a nationwide network of
radio stations broadcasting continuous weather information directly from
a nearby National Weather Service forecast office. NWR broadcasts National
Weather Service watches, warnings, forecasts and other hazard information 24 hours
Known as the "Voice of the National Weather Service,"
NOAA Weather Radio All Hazards is provided as a public service by the Department
of Commerce's National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration,and covers the 50
states, District of Columbia, Puerto Rico, U.S. Virgin Islands, and U.S.
NOAA Weather Radio All Hazards broadcasts emergency
and post-event information for all types of hazards -- both natural (such as severe
weather, flooding, earthquakes and volcanic activity) and man-made (such
as chemical releases or oil spills). Working with other Federal agencies
and compatible with the Federal Communication Commission s new Emergency
Alert System (EAS), NOAA Weather Radio is an all hazards radio
network, making it the single source for the most comprehensive weather and
emergency information available to the public.
Q2. What is the NOAA Weather
Radio All Hazards Console Replacement System?
The Console Replacement System
(CRS) is a new, personal computer-based broadcasting console, installed at each
NWS office, that automatically translates and schedules written National Weather
Service forecasts and warnings into synthesized-voice broadcasts over NOAA Weather Radio.
automated broadcast programs for NOAA Weather Radio All Hazards will free NWS
staff to spend more time on critical warning and forecasting duties.
In addition, the automatic weather broadcast consoles will provide a more
efficient means of disseminating severe weather watches, warnings and emergency
information over NOAA Weather Radio All Hazards.
The system is part of a
multi-year improvement of the National Weather Service s NOAA Weather Radio
network. NOAA Weather Radio All Hazards and the CRS are critical to the
NWS mission of disseminating watches and warnings of hazardous weather for
the protection of life and property.
Q3. What are the benefits of automated
This new automated system provides faster broadcasts of severe
weather watches, warnings and emergency information over NOAA Weather Radio
All Hazards because multiple warnings can be both recorded and transmitted
at once. This capability dramatically speeds up the broadcast of warnings
during multiple severe weather events.
The automated technology will also
significantly reduce the time it takes National Weather Service staff to
record NOAA Weather Radio All Hazards broadcasts allowing them to devote more
time to critical warning services and forecast duties.
process will make it easier for listeners to tune to NOAA Weather Radio All Hazards
at particular times for the information they need. Forecast offices
will be able to broadcast particular forecasts and information such as marine
and river forecasts or climate summaries in time slots on a more regular
schedule (for example, at :06, :16, :26, :36, :46, and :56 after each hour).
Will all the information I currently hear on NOAA Weather Radio All Hazards be
broadcast in a synthesized voice?
The synthesized voice will be phased
in over time. Eventually, all forecasts, warnings and weather information
will be broadcast with the synthesized voice. An NWR program can be interrupted with
live broadcasts as needed.
Q5. What can you tell me about the synthesized
voices used for the broadcasts?
The Console Replacement System uses text-to-speech
voice synthesis provided by the contractor DEC (Digital Equipment Corporation)
through what is known as DECtalk voice boards and software. The NWS
is committed to making improvements to the system s voice quality as improvements
Q6. When will the Console Replacement System by installed?
National Weather Service began a one-year process of installing CRS at offices
across the country in January 1998.
Q7. How were broadcasts recorded
prior to the automated system?
Since each transmitter operated by the NWS
office also has a unique geographical coverage area, in the past, NWS staff
members manually recorded the forecasts and current weather information for
each listening area. This was done using technology that limited programming
variability and locked the messages into a repetitive sequential order.
Producing and updating information in this manner was time consuming since
many Weather Service forecast offices operate up to 13 different NOAA Weather
Radio All Hazards transmitters.
Q8. Do I need to purchase a new receiver
to receive the new automated broadcasts?
No, you will not need to make
any changes to the receiver you have in your home or business to receive
the automated broadcasts.
Q9. How does the Console Replacement System work
with the new Specific Area Message Encoding service?
CRS and the Specific
Area Message Encoding (SAME) are two separate NOAA Weather Radio All Hazards technological
advances as part of the National Weather Service modernization effort. Specific Area
Message Encoding (SAME) is a feature on the newest generation of NOAA Weather
Radio All Hazardss which lets listeners pre-select the National Weather Service
alerts they want to receive based on the county where they live. CRS
automates the process of assigning SAME codes to watches and warnings.
Why won't the NWS continue to use real human voices for NOAA Weather Radio All
Automation dramatically speeds up the broadcast of
warnings during multiple severe weather events -- and faster communication
can potentially save lives.
Modern Weather Service forecast offices operate
up to 13 NOAA Weather Radio All Hazards transmitters to cover segments of
a large geographic area, and the NOAA Weather Radio All Hazards system continues
to grow while staffing levels stay the same. Each forecast, warning
and information product must be written, printed, re-worded, then taped for
broadcast. Providing the programming for multiple transmitters is a
significant workload during relatively calm weather, and can become overwhelming
during rapidly changing or threatening weather conditions. The Console Replacement
System automates the function of getting severe weather watches, warnings and emergency
information from our computers onto the air -- multiple warnings can be both recorded
and transmitted at once. (Experiences at some prototype sites has shown
an 8 to 1 time savings, with production time cut from 15 minutes per hour
to 15 minutes per 8-hour shift).
you use other technology that would use pre-recorded human voices, like the telephone
The process of recording common words (known as concatenation)
was not chosen for use with NOAA Weather Radio All Hazards programming, because
each forecast, watch and warning requires unique wording to relay the most
accurate and relevant information. Concatenation is sometimes used
by telephone companies, banks and other service businesses. In most cases,
this form of automation is used with a limited vocabulary of recorded words
and takes the place of limited, repetitive phrases and sentences.
was weighed as an option at one time, but NOAA Weather Radio All Hazards
broadcasts contain a wide variety of information which changes with the weather.
Forecasters need to have many words to choose from when writing their forecasts
and warnings for the public. Using a pre-recorded human voice requires
taping thousands of words with different inflections and pronunciations to
cover all of the possible forecast and warning situations, not to mention all forecast
areas for the nation (county names, city and town names with correct local pronunciations).
More than one person would have to record the same items in order to offer more
variety on broadcasts and problem arise when a specific geographic name has not
been recorded, like the name of a school, business or small stream which
might add significant information to a warning.
Q12. Is this the very
best quality of automated voicing that's available?
This is the best quality
of synthesized voice available. The automated voicing technology used is DECtalk,
which is a product of the Digital Equipment Corporation (DEC). DECtalk text-to-speech
synthesis technology provides an unlimited vocabulary and the highest speech quality
and accuracy available in the industry. It is the acknowledged leader
in the assistive market , that is, it is widely used the the
physically challanged to aid communication with people and machines.
Hawking, the acclaimed British physicist and cosmologist uses DECtalk in daily
life, and chose it (in an earlier version) for use as his own speaking voice
when he hosted a recent nationally telecast science program.