Since the advent of computerized numerical weather prediction in the 1950s, when a one-day forecast required an impractical 24 hours to produce, NOAA has played a critical role in the forecasting and communicating the weather to the nation. NOAA’s National Weather Service — including the NWS National Centers for Environmental Prediction —generates a wide range of products and services that, in addition to being available directly from NOAA sources, make their way into our homes, businesses and everyday lives through a successful partnership with the private sector. Nearly all commercial weather forecasts in the U.S., from local television stations to Internet weather sites, ultimately are based on data from NOAA satellites and official warnings from NWS’s operational weather service offices. NOAA’s National Weather Service is, by far, its greatest success in transferring federal technology to the private sector, and has helped to generate billions of dollars in private revenue while, fulfilling NWS’s mission of protecting lives and property.
NOAA Weather Radio
Known as the "Voice of NOAA's National Weather Service," NOAA Weather Radio All Hazards (NWR) is a public service that provides continuous weather information directly from the nearest National Weather Service forecast office. With more than 1,000 transmitters, serving 95% of the United States population, NWR broadcasts official NWS watches, warnings, forecasts and other hazard information 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, making it your single source for comprehensive weather and emergency information. In conjunction with federal, state, and local emergency managers and other public officials, NWR also broadcasts warning and post-event information for all types of hazards — including natural (such as earthquakes or avalanches), environmental (such as chemical releases or oil spills), and public safety (such as AMBER alerts or 911 telephone outages). Private companies produce the radio receiver hardware, while NOAA certifies the product capabilities and provides the warning broadcasts. NOAA Weather Radio is an excellent example of successful public-private collaboration.
NEXRAD Doppler Weather Radar
NEXRAD, or Next-Generation Radar, is a network of 160 high-resolution Doppler weather radars operated by NOAA’s National Weather Service, the FAA and the Department of Defense. NEXRAD radars are used to detect the location and intensity of dangerous weather across the United States, allowing NWS forecasters and private sector meteorologists to warn the public well in advance, thus saving lives. The radar system operates in two basic modes: a slow-scanning clear-air mode for analyzing air movements when there is little or no activity in the area, and a precipitation mode, with a faster scan for tracking active weather. NEXRAD was the start of a revolution in weather forecasting, but it is not the end. NOAA’s ongoing research and implementation of dual polarization and phased array radars continue to improve our ability to forecast and provide daily benefits to all segments of the population. In 2013, NOAA completed an upgrade of its NEXRAD Doppler radars to dual-pol technology, the most significant enhancement made to the nation’s federal weather radar system since NEXRAD technology was first installed in the early 1990s. Dual-pol radar sends and receives both horizontal and vertical pulses, which produces a much more informative picture of the size and shape of the objects in the sky. This provides meteorologists the ability to distinguish between rain, snow, hail and non-weather items like wildfire smoke plumes, birds and insects. Conventional Doppler radar only has a one-dimensional view making it difficult to tell the type of precipitation or object in the sky.
Weather.gov is the official NOAA weather forecast page. It provides information on all types of weather events, including location-specific forecasts, official watches and warnings, local, regional and national radar data, and forecast information free to the public. Weather.gov garners 60 million unique visitors per month. That number can jump from 3 to 10 times during high-impact weather events such as landfalling hurricanes, crippling blizzards, and tornado outbreaks. TIME magazine named weather.gov as one of the 50 best websites of 2013. The magazine’s editors, who have been ranking their favorite websites in a variety of categories for the past decade, included weather.gov as one of six sites in the News and Information category.