National Weather Service United States Department of Commerce

What is the National Weather Service

     The National Weather Service (NWS) is an agency of the United States government which provides weather forecasts, watches, warnings, and many other weather related products to the public and to many organizations across the country. It is a component of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA). The mission of the NWS is to "Provide weather, water, and climate data, forecasts and warnings for the protection of life and property and the enhancement of the national economy."

     The Weather Forecast Office (WFO) in Spokane is one of 122 Weather Forecast Offices across the country responsible for a collection of counties known as a County Warning Area (CWA). These offices cover the entire country as well as Puerto Rico and Guam. 

                                 NWS Weather Forecast Offices

     The headquarters of the NWS is located in Silver Springs, Maryland, with regional headquarters located in Kansas City, Missouri; Bohemia, New York; Fort Worth, Texas; Salt Lake City, Utah; Anchorage, Alaska; and Honolulu, Hawaii.

                               National Weather Service Regions

 

Operations Area

                                  Forecasters Work at one of 8 forecast workstations

     Pictured above is the operations area of the NWS Office here in Spokane. It is here that all of the forecasts, watches, warnings, and advisories are produced. This area is staffed 24/7/365 with at least 2 people on duty at all times. There are eight different workstations available, of which 3 or 4 will be occupied during normal operations in quiet weather. During a significant or severe weather event all of the workstations can be in use. All of these workstations face the Situational Awareness Display. This is the wall of television screens monitoring local television stations, radar and satellite, regional webcams, and other displays to keep the forecasters up to date on the evolving weather conditions. 

 

What We Forecast 

     At the Spokane Forecast Office, we issue 7-day forecasts for 13 counties in eastern Washington and 8 counties in north Idaho. To make these forecasts forecasters use the Advanced Weather Integrated Processing System (AWIPS) to analyze the latest weather data and computer model forecasts. They then create the gridded forecasts using the Graphical Forecast Editor (GFE).          

 

     In addition to the regular 7-day forecast, the forecasters on duty monitor the need for watches, warnings, and advisories around the clock. All watches, warnings, and advisories for the 21 counties in the NWS Spokane area are issued from the operations area (shown above). The only exceptions are Severe Thunderstorm Watches and Tornado Watches, which are issued by the Storm Prediction Center (SPC). 

     We also produce aviation and fire weather forecasts. The aviation forecasts are called Terminal Aerodrome Forecasts (TAFs). The NWS in Spokane produces TAFs for 7 airports around the area: Spokane (Gieger), Felts Field, Coeur d'Alene, Lewiston, Pullman, Moses Lake, and Wenatchee. The fire weather forecasts are produced based on the grids in the Graphical Forecast Editor, and are issued as a special product. 

 

 

What Else We Do

     We broadcast our forecasts, watches, warnings, and advisories over NOAA Weather Radio. NOAA Weather Radio is a nationwide network of radio stations broadcasting continuous weather information directly from the nearest National Weather Service Office. The broadcast schedule consists of messages which are repeated every three to five minutes and are routinely revised to provide up-to-date information. In conjunction with Federal, State, and Local Emergency Managers and other public officials, NWR also broadcasts warning and post-event information for all types of hazards - including natural (earthquakes, avalanches, etc), environmental (chemical releases, oil spills, etc), and public safety. If you aren't hearing our broadcast, you can check and see if your station is down temporarily here

                                      NOAA Weather Radio Coverage in Washington

 

We maintain climate data and records for various observation sites around the area, as well as for cooperative observer sites. This includes records and averages for temperatures and precipitation, along with a few other meteorological variables. We also log storm reports, snowfall totals, etc.