How the Weather Channel gets its Forecasts

Most of the time, the Weather Channel, TWC, is enjoyable to watch. It has pleasantly low-key reporters, and the “Local on the 8’s” feature is useful to everyone who needs a quick update. Broadcast every ten minutes starting at eight after the hour, and backed by light jazz, it informs cable viewers about current temperature and precipitation, displays the Doppler radar (a sort of cloud map), and reports on weather in nearby areas of interest. Some cities are provided other information of local interest, such as traffic or tides.

When the weather turns nasty, this station is less pleasant to watch, but even more useful. Then it serves up storm watches and warnings, to keep viewers informed. It follows severe weather on maps, and often provides reporters at the scene. It is a conduit for important information in clear and understandable form.

The Weather Channel is based in a suburb of Atlanta Georgia. In-house meteorologists there generate forecasts and long range predictions. Most of the current weather and forecast model data they use to do this comes from either NOAA or the NWS.

NOAA is an acronym for the National Oceanic and Atmosphere Administration. Its scientific mission is to keep American citizens informed about the weather, climate, and environment around us. The NWS, the National Weather Service, is the arm of NOAA that provides weather forecasts, watches, and warnings for the United States and surrounding areas.

The Weather Channel also gets information from the EPA, the United States Environmental Protection Agency. This agency is charged with keeping track of current ultraviolet radiation levels and air quality. When TWC displays traffic information, it has generally been supplied by a subsidiary of NAVTEQ, a company in the private sector that gathers data from an assortment of intelligent transportation systems.

Local weather information (weather on the 8’s) is provided at the headend of the cable television company that provides the channel to local viewers. A headend is an automated, generally unstaffed, regional facility for receiving and transferring TV signals. Here the IntelliStar unit (or one of a variety of similar units) from TWC automatically inserts programmed weather information into the cable system. Watches and warnings are also inserted when necessary. Surprisingly, there are no Weather Channel meteorologists involved except in the Atlanta area.

Television viewers who receive satellite service that includes TWC get a slightly different package of services, but theirs too is automated and originates near Atlanta. They see local forecasts for many major U.S. cities, radar and maps, and of course see watches and warnings. There is a terrific amount of technology behind the useful information presented by the pleasant reporters of TWC.