National Weather Service United States Department of Commerce

Did you know the National Weather Service updated its mission statement recently? 

Provide weather, water and climate data, forecasts, warnings, and impact-based decision support services for the protection of life and property and enhancement of the national economy.

Notice that “impact-based decision support services” (IDSS) was added to the mission statement to reflect the significant contributions of “IDSS.” In common terms, IDSS is “forecast advice” – the provision of interpretive services translating weather, water and climate forecast information to meet the needs of NWS core partners (i.e., emergency management, other government partners with a mission aligned to the NWS, water resource managers, and the electronic media). 

IDSS factors in not only the traditional aspects of a weather forecast but also expected impacts on public safety, travel, essential services, and government operations. To meet this challenge, social science is brought into the equation along with physical science to better understand how societal factors relate to expected impacts. For instance, light snow falling at rush hour during the work week with rapidly dropping temperatures is likely to cause a bigger disruption than light snow falling on a Saturday afternoon with temperatures hovering above freezing.

To provide meaningful IDSS, many more factors are considered to improve the decision making of emergency managers, community leaders, and government agencies. Sticking with the snowfall example, that light snow event would have a much greater impact if it were the first of the season instead of later in the winter when people have adjusted their driving habits and are well-versed in dealing with snow. 

Implementing a new foundational service takes time. IDSS has grown from just an idea at the onset of the Weather-Ready Nation “era” back in 2011 to a mature, ever improving program today. Significant achievements include the:

  • Formation of the National Decision Support Integration Branch and IDSS Program
  • Implementation of the first IDSS directive
  • Implementation of standardized IDSS training and Deployment Ready prerequisites
  • Formalization of Core Partner relationships
  • Testing of standard Core Partner Surveys for the evaluation of IDSS 
  • Formation of the first set of IDSS tools in IDSS Toolkit v 1.0

Our work is not done. IDSS continues to improve and there are some exciting projects still in progress. Improvement involves knowing our partners’ needs even more and having more data at our fingertips. A few ongoing efforts include: 

  • The development and implementation of the first set of core IDSS Instructions that address the IDSS Operations Model, Impact-based Products and Services Specification, IDSS Deployments, and Core Partner Identification.
  • The development of IDSS Toolkit 2.0
  • The development and implementation for the IDSS Management System (IMS)
  • The development and implementation of standard Core Partner surveys
  • The incorporation of SBES findings into IDSS including Consistent Depiction of Risk, Impacts and Threats.
  • The continued development of Climate IDSS addressign sub-seasonal and seasonal timeframes.
  • The development of Impact-based and Probabilistic Messaging

Learn more about Impact-based Decision Support Services at:

IDSS Brochure

National Weather Service (NWS) Service Description Document (SDD) Impact-Based Decision Support Services for NWS Core Partners (April 2018)