Voices Used on
NOAA Weather Radio
From the introduction of NOAA Weather Radio until the late 1990s,
nearly all the voices heard in the broadcasts were those of the
staff at local National Weather Service (NWS) offices. The messages
were manually recorded, first on tape cartridges and later digitally,
and placed in the broadcast cycle.
As part of the NWS Modernization during the 1990s, many local
offices were closed and their NOAA Weather Radio consoles were
moved to the new or enhanced Weather Forecast Offices. This was
also the start of a period of rapid expansion of the Weather Radio
network. What had been about 400 transmitters in 1990 grew to near
600 by the end of 2000 and is now (at the end of 2006) over 960
transmitters across the 50 states, Puerto Rico, Guam, and American
To cope with the increasing number of transmitters at each office,
and to speed the overall delivery of warning messages to the public,
the Console Replacement System (CRS) was deployed at NWS Weather
Forecast Offices in the late 1990s. CRS introduced a computerized
voice nicknamed "Paul" using the DECTalk text-to-speech
system. DECTalk grew out of research by the late Dr. Dennis Klatt
of MIT. While CRS greatly enhanced the speed of delivery and scheduling
of Weather Radio messages, there was some dissatisfaction with
The National Weather Service embarked on a Voice Improvement Processor
(VIP) program in late 2000, and implemented newer text-to-speech
voices nationwide in 2002, nicknamed "Donna" and "Craig".
A year later, further updates were made. The "Donna" voice
was improved, "Craig" was replaced by "Tom",
and a Spanish voice "Javier" was added at a few sites.
All of the VIP voices have been produced using the Speechify text-to-speech
system. (The official Speechify name for our "Donna" voice
is "Mara".) Speechify was originally a product of the
Speechworks company, based on technology developed by AT&T.
Speechworks was purchased by Scansoft in 2003, and Scansoft merged
with Nuance in 2005.
The VIP voices generally have been better received by the public
than "Paul" was. There is a better capability to fine-tune
the pronunciation of words and phrases along with controls to adjust
the volume and rate of speech. These all help to make the voices
more understandable when it really counts - in warning situations.
Compare the original Paul voice and the current Tom, Donna, and
Javier voices in the audio samples below. You will need an audio
player to listen to them. Depending on the audio player used and
the speed of your Internet connection, you may need to first download
each file to your computer to be able to listen to the entire file.