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The National Weather Service Has Issued...

Meet the Centers Responsible for Your Local and National NWS Forecasts

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The National Weather Service Has Issued...

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NOAA

The National Weather Service (NWS) name is attached to most forecasts, warnings, and weather analyses. But did you know, the NWS headquarters is not responsible for issuing these products?

Few people realize it, but NWS forecasts are actually distributed by a collection of offices and centers--namely its National Centers for Environmental Prediction (NCEP) and Weather Forecast Offices (WFOs).

The Nine NCEP Centers

To support the weather information needs of the nation as a whole, the NWS relies on its National Centers for Environmental Prediction. NCEP is comprised of nine centers, each specializing in a different area of weather.

  1. The Aviation Weather Center (AWC)
    Location: Kansas City, MO
    Popular products: prog charts, TAFs, METARs

    AWC site page
    The Aviation Weather Center specializes in providing weather guidance for domestic and international aviation. Its products are tailored to the needs of pilots and airspace authorities, and include warnings for turbulence, icing, and other weather conditions hazardous to flight safety.

  2. The Climate Prediction Center (CPC)
    Location: College Park, MD
    Popular products: NOAA winter outlooks, seasonal U.S. drought outlooks

    CPC site page
    The CPC predicts the likelihood that temperatures, precipitation, sea surface temperatures (SSTs), and other climatological conditions will be near-, above-, or below-average in the coming weeks, months, and seasons. It then compiles this data into climate outlooks. It is also responsible for monitoring climate patterns, including El Nino and La Nina.

  3. The Environmental Modeling Center (EMC)
    Location: College Park, MD
    EMC site page
    The EMC doesn't issue a weather product per se, but it's responsible for doing behind-the-scenes research work on an important one--numerical forecast models. It develops, runs, and improves model prediction methods. (More on models later.)

  4. The Hydrometeorological Prediction Center (HPC)
    Location: College Park, MD
    Popular products: national forecast charts, N. America surface analysis maps, QPFs (quantitative precipitation forecasts)

    HPC site page
    The HPC is a hub of nationwide weather information. True to its title of "hydrometeorological," it provides a wide variety of data, from current U.S. surface observations, to short-range (Days 1-3) and medium-range forecasts (Days 3-7), to U.S. precipitation forecasts.

  5. National Hurricane Center (NHC)
    Location: Miami, FL
    Popular products: tropical cyclone & hurricane watches/warnings

    NHC site page
    The NHC is perhaps the most well-known of the nine National Centers for Environmental Prediction. It is the center responsible for issuing tropical cyclone and hurricane forecasts in the Atlantic and Eastern Pacific basins.

  6. NCEP Central Operations (NCO)
    Location: College Park, MD
    NCO site page
    The NCO is the IT management side of the National Centers for Environmental Prediction. It prepares other centers' products for public distribution. Among this, one of it's main tasks is to maintain the model forecasts created by the EMC.

  7. Ocean Prediction Center (OPC)
    Location: College Park, MD
    Popular products: unified surface analyses

    OPC site page
    The OPC provides mariners with a picture of the surface weather features (high and low pressure, fronts, winds) forecast over the North Atlantic and North Pacific oceans. The center's origins date back to the sinking of the RMS Titanic in 1912.

  8. Space Weather Prediction Center (SWPC)
    Location: Boulder, CO
    SWPC site page
    NWS not only deals with weather conditions on Earth, but in space too. The SWPC is tasked with monitoring and forecasting the Sun's activity with special emphasis on how that activity (such as solar flares and solar wind) may disturb Earth's atmosphere and communications systems.

  9. Storm Prediction Center (SPC)
    Location: Norman, OK
    Popular products: convective outlooks, mesoscale discussions, watch/warning maps, storm reports

    SPC site page
    Another well-known center is the SPC, whose responsibility is to forecast the threat for severe weather events (thunderstorms and tornadoes) across the U.S. Strangely enough, the center is also responsible for forecasting fire weather.

WFOs

The National Weather Service also operates 122 weather forecasting offices positioned around the country whose jobs are to support weather that's happening in your local area. The team of meteorologists at these offices monitor weather conditions at most major cities (and their surrounding counties) 24 hours, 7 days a week. Because they actually "sit" near the locations for which they forecast, they're able to take into account the local differences (for example, the lay of the land) that may uniquely affect the kind of weather experienced where you are.

WFOs also produce one of the most popular weather products issued by the NWS--weather watches, warnings, and advisories.

What WFO is responsible for issuing forecasts for your area? For a list by state, visit the NWS organization site page.

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