NOAA 2001-084
Contact: Susan Weaver


NOAA Weather Radio, the nation's automated radio weather warning system, will soon have a new voice. The National Weather Service, an agency of the Commerce Department's National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, evaluated five voices and reviewed 19,000 Internet survey comments from the public in the effort to find the new voice.

NOAA has awarded Siemens Information and Communication Network of Boca Raton, Fla., a $633,615 contract for the voice improvement. The weather service will begin implementation of the new voice's text-to-speech software program early in 2002, following successful testing and integration within the NOAA Weather Radio system.

The weather service first used a computer synthesized voice technology as part of a console replacement system in 1997. Automating NOAA Weather Radio enabled the weather service to send out multiple independent warnings over multiple transmitters simultaneously, allowing speedier delivery of severe weather warnings and more lead-time for the public.

"The old voice was state-of-the-art when first placed in service in 1997, but advances in artificial speech technology now make it possible for us to provide a service that is more understandable to the public," said retired General Jack Kelly, director of the National Weather Service. "This reinforces our commitment to continuously use new technology to improve the timeliness and effectiveness of public warnings."

As part of the contract, Siemens will team with SpeechWorks International of Boston, to provide software that combines phonetic sounds with natural language modeling.

"SpeechWorks is working with us to make NOAA Weather Radio even better, said Greg Mandt, director of the weather service's Office of Services. Mandt said a series of focus groups conducted around the country are indicating wide support for the new voice. "We'll use this feedback to help us further improve the voice and find out what changes our listeners might want in the NOAA Weather Radio service. We're confident these voice improvements will help to increase NOAA Weather Radio's listening audience, which translates to protecting more lives and property."

NOAA Weather Radio, sometimes referred to as the voice of the National Weather Service, is a portable device that enables the public to receive continuous weather broadcasts and hazard alerts directly from local weather forecast offices. Transmitting from a network of 583 stations nationwide, the NOAA Weather Radio can be heard by more than 85 percent of the U.S. population.

NOAA's National Weather Service is the primary source of weather data, forecasts and warnings for the United States and its territories. NWS operates the most advanced weather and flood warning and forecast system in the world, helping to protect lives and property and enhance the national economy.

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NOTE: The old and new voice can be heard on the NOAA Weather Radio
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