National Weather Service United States Department of Commerce

New cabling installed at every office to improve forecast services and collaboration


This week, the National Weather Service is celebrating the completion of the OneNWS network. Today we’re talking to Michelle Mainelli, director of dissemination, about ushering in this new high tech era at the nation’s weather agency.

Hi Michelle - thanks for chatting with us today. So tell us, what exactly is the OneNWS Network? What does it do?
The OneNWS Network connects all of our offices so we can improve coordination internally for forecast operations, and it expands our online bandwidth so we can improve external coordination with our core partners, such as emergency managers.

Gaylord, Michigan, had the honor of being the last office to receive the upgrade this week. How many offices in total have this new network?
Now all of our offices are upgraded to the new network - 144 offices in all.

What exactly was upgraded?
We upgraded the physical network connection lines going into our offices. Prior to this upgrade, we were using an older technology made up of multiple circuits and networks which was very difficult to manage and maintain. Now that our operational offices are wired with ethernet fiber cable, we have the ability to more easily increase bandwidth as our needs change and budget allows.

Why was this upgrade necessary?
Prior to installing this network, our offices didn’t have the bandwidth they needed to accomplish everything they needed to do efficiently. For example, Internet speeds were so slow that our forecasters had to take mandatory online trainings from home.

Now they can take their trainings from the office, plus do a lot more. They can download high resolution satellite imagery and model data instantly during severe weather events - or really any type of weather event - to supplement what they receive from our internal system called AWIPS. Now they can get more information and faster than ever, enabling better integrated support services to emergency managers and other partners.

Sounds like inside baseball stuff... a government agency running new cables to their offices... but it also sounds like this upgrade will actually improve our public forecast services.
Absolutely - 100%. Some offices received bandwidth increases by 30-fold, meaning they can now send and receive many times the amount of data than in the past. This changes the landscape of the service that our forecast offices can provide to their communities.

So now they can upload and download information faster, and they have more bandwidth to pull in more information than ever before...
Correct! And this improves our ability to communicate, collaborate, and exchange data between offices quickly, when dangerous weather is on the way and every minute can mean the difference between life and death. This new network can handle all the activity our offices need to be fully engaged and do their jobs well, and now they can more effectively respond to the types of requests they get from partners who have to make quick decisions for public safety.

How long did it take to upgrade the entire network?
The project started back in 2014, and upgrades continued across the country on a rolling basis until the entire network was completed on July 11, 2018.

Sounds like a lot of the offices have been upgraded for a while and have been using the new OneNWS network. What kind of feedback are you getting from these offices?
The feedback has been very positive. It’s good to hear the excitement from our forecasters about how the new capability to quickly receive high resolution imagery from NOAA’s new GOES-16 satellite is enhancing their ability to develop forecasts. I’m hearing “WOW!” a lot from the field, which is very rewarding!

Sounds like it is a new era, not just for the National Weather Service, and the Office of Dissemination, but also for meteorologists - it’s going to change the way they do their jobs.

That does it for my questions. Is there anything you’d like to add?
It took a significant effort and close coordination across the National Weather Service to be able to accomplish getting all the offices upgraded to the OneNWS Network. We now have a central office overseeing, monitoring and managing the network. This is a critical positive component to upgrading the network... having a single office with one support staff we can call on to address any problems, and they in turn will work with vendors to restore any outages as quickly as possible.

It was a team effort across the board. We couldn’t have done it without every office engaged and supporting it.