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Collaborative Research between the National Weather Service and North Carolina State University


NOAA and the NWS have a long history of entering into cooperative activities with colleges and universities with the goal to bring applied research to NWS operations and services. The benefits derived from collaborative research activities are numerous. NWS and university resources are leveraged, which will accelerate application of new science to operational forecasting. Collaborative research enables mutual sharing of information and data that may have been previously unavailable. Numerous opportunities for diverse partnerships are created, and these opportunities contribute to the scientific education of current and future workforce.

The primary reason our office was located on North Carolina State University's Centennial Campus was to foster collaboration between the academic community at the University and the meteorological staff at the forecast office. Of the National Weather Service's 123 Forecast Offices, 14 are now co-located on university campuses.

Collaboration seminar at NWS Raleigh
One of the country's strongest collaborative research relationships between a NWS office and a university initiated in Raleigh in the late 1970's and expanded during the 1980's. The collaboration was significantly enhanced in the 1990's when the NWS office was collocated with the NC State University (NCSU) Department of Marine, Earth, and Atmospheric Sciences (MEAS). Years of applied research activities conducted by NWS Raleigh and the NCSU MEAS has led to this successful relationship. The first of nearly 10 COMET-funded projects between NWS Raleigh and NC State University commenced in January 1991. NWS Raleigh, NC State University, and several other nearby NWS offices have participated in 3 long term (3 year) CSTAR projects focusing on topics including: improving topographically-forced weather systems in the Carolinas and Virginia; improving cold-season precipitation forecasts in the southeastern U.S.; and improving the understanding and prediction of warm season precipitation systems in the Southeast and Mid-Atlantic. A more detailed summary of the history between NWS Raleigh and NC State University is available here.

In addition to the formal collaborative programs listed above, NWS Raleigh maintains a robust student intern program which dates back to 2004. In 2022, this program was expanded to include Atmospheric Science students from NC Agricultural and Technical (A&T) State University. 

An article in the Bulletin of the American Meteorological Society entitled Assessing the Impact of Collaborative Research Projects on NWS Warning Performance by Jeff Waldstreicher reports that collaborative research projects between universities and National Weather Service Forecast Offices in the eastern United States are found to have measurable benefits to tornado, severe thunderstorm, flash flood, and winter storm warnings.

References: Waldstreicher, J.S., 2005: Assessing the Impact of Collaborative Research Projects on NWS Warning Performance. Bull. Amer. Meteor. Soc., 86, 193–203.