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Overview of the AWIPS System

The high-speed technologically-advanced processing, display, and telecommunication network called the Advanced Weather Interactive Processing System (AWIPS) is the centerpiece of National Weather Service operations. AWIPS is an interactive, versatile computer system that integrates all meteorological, hydrological, satellite, and radar data into one computer workstation. AWIPS allows forecasters the interactive capability to view, analyze, combine, and manipulate large amounts of graphical and alphanumeric weather data. Thus, AWIPS provides a very efficient and effective means for forecasters to prepare and issue timely, accurate forecasts and warnings. AWIPS exists in all Weather Forecast Offices (WFOs) and River Forecast Centers (RFCs) nationwide, and several national weather centers, as shown below.



The downlink antenna at NWS Louisville is an integral part of the AWIPS communication system, i.e., the satellite broadcast network (SBN). This "receive-only" antenna ingests weather data signals from a satellite in space. The satellite receives its data signals from a master ground station and transmits them to all field AWIPS sites via each site's antenna (point-to-multipoint communications). Signals are automatically sent to NWS Louisville's AWIPS data servers and applications processors, and then displayed on workstations in NWS Louisville's operations area.



AWIPS workstation at NWS Louisville An AWIPS workstation at NWS Louisville. Each workstation consists of three graphical displays, one alphanumeric (text) screen, and an advanced processor. Six workstations exist at NWS Louisville to fully support all office forecast and warning operations and functions.

AWIPS ingests and processes the following primary data sets:


  • Comprehensive numerical model forecast and ensemble data
  • NWS Doppler radar and dual pol data
  • GOES satellite data (visible, infrared, water vapor, and derived satellite imagery)
  • Observed surface data from Automated Surface Observing System (ASOS) sites
  • Observed upper-air and sounding data from radiosonde sites
  • Hydrologic data and programs, such as river gauges, river levels, and forecasts
  • Forecast guidance products from the National Centers for Environmental Prediction (NCEP), National Hurricane Center (NHC), and Storm Prediction Center (SPC)
  • Various applications programs and data
  • Graphical Forecast Editor (GFE) used to create and edit digital weather graphics, from which worded forecasts are created and graphical data are uploaded to the National Digital Forecast Database (NDFD)
  • Hazardous weather warning and statement generation software

The AWIPS system architectural design is driven by expandability, flexibility, availability, and portability to allow for new functionality and the augmentation of network and processing capabilities. AWIPS is designed so that software and data can be migrated to new platforms as technology evolves. AWIPS is a dynamic system that frequently is updated to keep it a state-of-the-art system for NWS forecasters. The system architecture consists of the Network Control Facility (NCF), Satellite Broadcast System (SBN), wide area network (WAN), Weather Forecast Offices (WFOs), River Forecast Centers (RFCs), National Centers, and the NOAAPORT Receive System (NRS). The SBN is a key component of the AWIPS communication network that feeds data from the NCF to each AWIPS site (WFOs and RFCs), distributes information among the AWIPS sites, and provides for dissemination of information to the public and other outside users. It is a one-way, point-to-multipoint satellite broadcast system that distributes very large amounts of data collected/produced at NOAA's national centers to AWIPS field sites. The SBN consists of a master ground antenna for transmitting data, a satellite, and a downlink antenna at each AWIPS site.

The AWIPS communication network also consists of a wide area network (WAN), i.e., a high speed data network of terrestrial communications lines. This network allows two-way, point-to-point communications among AWIPS sites for the exchange of requisite data/products which are locally collected/produced.

Key hardware components of AWIPS at each field AWIPS site includes the downlink antenna that receives transmitted data; several communication, application, and data processors and servers to ingest, translate, create, manipulate, and store data; the Local Data Acquisition and Dissemination System (LDADS); and several forecaster workstations. In the near future, an updated version of AWIPS, called AWIPS II will be deployed to NWS field offices to provide even more enhanced capabilities to help the NWS in its mission to save lives and property.

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