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Weather Forecasting

The National Weather Service

In the United States weather forecasting is the responsibility of the National Weather Service (NWS), a division of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) of the Department of Commerce. NWS maintains more than 400 field offices and observatories in all 50 states and overseas. The future modernized structure of the NWS will include 116 weather forecast offices (WFO) and 13 river forecast centers, all collocated with WFOs. WFOs also collect data from ships at sea all over the world and from meteorological satellites circling Earth. Each year the Service collects nearly four million pieces of information about atmospheric conditions from these sources.

The information collected by WFOs is used in the weather forecasting work of NWS. The data is processed by nine National Centers for Environmental Prediction (NCEP). Each center has a specific weather-related responsibility: seven of the centers focus on weather pre diction—the Aviation Weather Center, the Climate Prediction Center, the Hydrometeorological Prediction Center, the Marine Prediction Center, the Space Environment Center, the Storm Prediction Center, and the Tropical Prediction Center—while the other two centers develop and run complex computer models of the atmosphere and provide support to the other centers—the Environmental Prediction Center and NCEP Central Operations. Severe weather systems such as thunderstorms and hurricanes are monitored at the National Storm Prediction Center in Norman, Oklahoma. Hurricane watches and warnings are issued by the Tropical Prediction Center in Miami, Florida, (serving the Atlantic, Caribbean, Gulf of Mexico, and eastern Pacific Ocean) and by the Forecast Office in and Honolulu, Hawaii, (serving the central Pacific). WFOs, other government agencies, and private meteorological services rely on NCEP's information, and many of the weather forecasts in the paper, and on radio and television, originate at NCEP.

Global weather data are collected at more than 1,000 observation points around the world and then sent to central stations maintained by the World Meteorological Organization, a division of the United Nations. Global data also is sent to NWS's NCEPs for analysis and publication.


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