National Weather Service United States Department of Commerce

What is the purpose of Weather-Ready Nation?
The purpose of the Weather-Ready Nation initiative is first and foremost to save more lives and livelihoods. By increasing the nation’s weather-readiness, the country will be prepared to protect, mitigate, respond to and recover from weather-related disasters.

Who is involved in Weather-Ready Nation?
Society’s ability to prepare for natural disasters requires a societal response equal to the risk. Government cannot do this alone, which is why the NWS is leveraging its vast nationwide network of partners, and incorporating new partners who are beginning to share the vision of building a Weather-Ready Nation. Partners include other government agencies and emergency managers, researchers, the media, insurance industry, non-profits, the private sector and more.

Why is America becoming increasingly vulnerable to weather events?
The continued increase in the severity of impacts is attributable to societal changes represented in demographic trends, growing infrastructure threats, and an increased reliance on technology. U.S. population has almost doubled since 1954, which corresponds with higher property and infrastructure values. Trends such as urban sprawl and conversion of rural land to suburban landscapes increase the likelihood a tornado will impact densely populated areas.

The increased dependence on technology by both forecasters and the general public requires investments for regular updates, replacements and repairs.

More overlap in the U.S. economy means that a single weather event can have a significant effect on several industries. In fact, according to a study by the National Center for Atmospheric Research, weather can vary the economic output in the U.S. by $485 billion of the country’s GDP annually. The study goes on to say that weather events affect “economic activity in every state and every sector.” 

What are the specific new NOAA measures Weather-Ready Nation will include?
The initiative includes several operational initiatives in every area of our work, from observing current conditions to increasing lead times on severe weather warnings to improving how we communicate our forecasts to the public.

We are upgrading our radar and satellite technologies, deploying mobile forecast teams, and developing actionable forecasts for the public. This means we’re not just improving the precision of risk forecasts; we’re communicating that risk more effectively through investment in social science research.

Since being weather ready is a collective effort we’re also leading a National Dialog to reduce risk and increase community resilience for future extreme events. The dialogue kicks off with a partner workshop/symposium scheduled for December 2011, in Norman, Okla. The participants will identify, prioritize, and set in motion actions to improve the nation’s resiliency against severe weather, especially tornadoes.

How will the National Weather Service improve precision of weather and water forecasts?
The increased capabilities of new radars and satellites coupled with finely-detailed numerical weather prediction models running in real-time on computers at speeds exceeding a quadrillion computations per second will result in such great detail that we’ll be better able to know, for example, where and when a tornado will form, where it will go, and who it will affect.

Where can I see Weather-Ready Nation initiatives in action?

A series of innovative, community-based pilot projects are being launched at select locations across the country and range in focus from emergency response to ecological forecasting. Pilot projects will initially be launched at strategic locations in the Gulf Coast, South and mid-Atlantic.

  • Decision support in an urban region (Washington, D.C. / Baltimore, Md.) – Sterling, Va., Weather Forecast Office
  • Decision support in a Coastal region – New Orleans Weather Forecast Office
  • Decision support at regional level – Fort Worth, Texas, Regional Operations Center
  • Decision support at national level – Silver Spring, Md., NWS Operations Center
  • Integrating environmental decision support – Tampa Bay Area, FL Weather Forecast Office
  • Integrating emerging technologies into the future of warning services – Charleston, WV Weather Forecast Office

What is Dual Pol radar?
Dual polarization is an upgrade to the existing 1988 Doppler radars and will provide a much clearer picture of the type, size and amount of whatever the radar is scanning. This updated technology will give forecasters better information about heavy rainfall and hail in thunderstorms, and it can also detect the presence of airborne tornado debris, giving forecasters confirmation of an ongoing damaging tornado, which is especially critical if a tornado is impossible to see with the human eye.

All 160 Doppler radars throughout the nation will be upgraded with dual polarization by mid-2013.

What is the Integrated Water Resources Science and Services?
Integrated Water Resources Science and Services (IWRSS) – an innovative partnership of federal agencies with complementary operational missions in water science, observation, prediction and management.  Consisting initially of NOAA, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (USACE), and the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS), the IWRSS consortium envisions a highly collaborative and integrative framework for providing a seamless suite of water resources information across scales ranging from small hillslopes to large watersheds, from droughts to floods, and from historical analyses to long-range predictions.

What is the Joint Polar Satellite System?
The Joint Polar Satellite System is the next generation of polar orbiting satellites. Its new sensor technology will enable more accurate characterization of land conditions such as vegetation type, soil moisture content and land-atmosphere interactions, all of which can be incorporated into numerical weather prediction models to improve the forecasts of the potential for severe thunderstorm and related tornado events.

How is the initiative being funded?
By repurposing existing resources, the initiative will not require additional funding.

What will be the initiative’s impact on America?
The end goal is better information for better decisions. It means, for example:

  • forecasts of the future will focus on impacts. For example, “two inches of snow an hour” may become “roads will become impassable due to heavy snowfall during rush hour.”
  • when a mother hears a tornado warning, she understands that she should go to the basement now, not in a half hour.\
  • when a hurricane will make landfall, NWS emergency response specialists are on hand to provide support to local emergency managers.
  • environmental forecasts will help people manage chronic illnesses like asthma and respiratory diseases.

How can citizens participate in the initiative?
Citizens can increase their weather readiness by:
Making a plan for extreme weather
Staying informed
Sharing information with friends and family