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Office of Climate, Water, and Weather Services
Dissemination Services

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:

  • Make a wide range of information readily available to a diverse user community
  • Disseminate all NWS information nationwide
  • Disseminate broad user community-specific information a subset of NWS information
  • Deliver critical information to the public, the hazards community, and other users
NWS relies on the substantial contribution of our partners in the public and private sectors to further disseminate and communicate products and information.
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)

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 System.

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.

NOAA Weather Wire Service (NWWS)

The NOAA 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 forecast

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, DynCorp, at (800)-633-2340. DynCorp offers three options for receiving NWWS products: C-band, Ku-band, or Internet service. The benefits and costs of each option are explained on the DynCorp NWWS web site. In addition to a straight purchase, DynCorp also offers long term financing plans.

Emergency Managers Weather Information Network (EMWIN)

Emergency 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) and need:

  • 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 system.

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)

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.

Family of Services (FOS)

The Family 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 for operating this system.

Radar 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

Electronic Networks

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 information.

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.

Telephone Systems

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 capability.

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 better solutions.

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.

Two-Way Communication with the Hazards Community

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 information by:

  • 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 wake;
  • 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 System;
  • 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 users.
  • Working with Federal agencies to support the use of video teleconferencing technology as a medium by which agencies share graphical information operationally.

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).

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Last Updated: December 27, 2007