NOAA 2003-R202
Contact: Ron Trumbla

NOAA News Releases 2003
NOAA Home Page
NOAA Public Affairs


The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s (NOAA) National Weather Service (NOAA Weather Service), an agency of the Commerce Department, has opened its newest Weather Forecast Office (WFO) to serve 11 counties in northern Alabama. Located in the National Space Science and Technology Center (NSSTC) Annex at the University of Alabama in Huntsville (UAH), the new WFO becomes the 122nd forecast office in the nation and the 32nd to serve the NOAA Weather Service Southern Region.

The WFO Huntsville staff now provides complete weather forecast and warning services for the citizens of Lauderdale, Limestone, Madison, Jackson, Colbert, Franklin, Lawrence, Morgan, Marshall, DeKalb and Cullman Counties.

“The NOAA Weather Service’s southern region has some of the most active weather in the world, and northern Alabama is one of the most active areas in the region,” said Bill Proenza, director, NOAA Weather Service southern region. “That’s why we have taken great care to assemble a dedicated, highly-trained staff and state-of-the-art technology – to serve the citizens of this volatile weather area.”

U.S. Representative Bud Cramer (D-Ala.) said, “North Alabama has been anxiously anticipating the opening of our own Weather Forecasting Office for a long time. Our north Alabama community has a history of tornadoes and unique weather patterns, and we deserve the best severe weather coverage possible for the Tennessee Valley. By collocating this WFO with the cutting-edge NSSTC researchers, I believe this office will become one of the finest WFOs in the Nation.”

U.S. Representative Robert Aderholt (R-Ala.) also noted the volatility of north Alabama weather patterns. “We are all too familiar with the devastation brought on by severe weather, especially tornadoes,” he said. “Since being elected to Congress, I have toured several areas devastated by tornadoes and we are well aware of the benefits of getting an early warning when bad weather is on the way. The state-of-the-art technology in the Huntsville facility will enhance the weather warnings given to residents across north Alabama – something that can save lives and help people prepare for severe weather before it is too late.”

While WFO Huntsville’s primary responsibility is to provide timely, accurate weather forecasts and warnings for the people of northern Alabama, its location also enables it to be an active participant in a range of meteorological and hydrometeorological research. The office is one of 12 collocated on university campuses across the nation and the only one to share space with a National Aeronautic and Space Administration (NASA) research facility. The NSSTC is the result of a partnership of NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center, Alabama universities, federal agencies and industry.

According to Proenza, the NOAA Weather Service collocation further energizes that partnership. “Collocating our office with the University of Alabama in Huntsville and the NSSTC creates a wonderful synergy that will provide substantial benefits for the partners, the emergency management community and the public,” Proenza said.

John Gordon, meteorologist in charge of WFO Huntsville, says the process is already underway. “Many strong partnerships with the emergency managers, NASA, the university, the media and numerous civic groups have already begun – and more will be forthcoming.”

The NOAA Weather Service forecast office in Huntsville includes a collaborative research area, located adjacent to the forecast operations area. Joint operational research activities will include the NOAA Weather Service, NASA and UAH partners. The research area has an Advanced Weather Interactive Processing System (AWIPS) workstation, a Weather Event Simulator (WES) and two high-end personal computers with access to NASA and UAH data networks. Collaborative projects currently underway include:

  • A lightning research project designed to provide real-time lightning data allowing forecasters to improve severe weather warnings to the emergency management and aviation communities and the general public.
  • A project designed to integrate satellite and other data into local-scale weather models to enhance thunderstorm, precipitation and temperature forecasts.
  • Exploration of innovative uses of high resolution NOAA and NASA satellite imagery to improve short-term aviation and thunderstorm forecasting.
  • Utilization of UAH profiler data which produces detailed measurements of wind, temperature and humidity in the lower levels of the atmosphere to better understand how thunderstorms begin.

“We are also excited about the unique prospects of having a tri-location of NASA, UAH and the NOAA Weather Service,” said Richard McNider, interim executive director of the NSSTC. “We believe that the interaction between NASA researchers and the WFO will allow the new satellite techniques for improving weather forecasts to be tested and refined in an operational environment. This is in keeping with NASA's new emphasis on carrying out relevant science for the benefit of society.”

“We are already working with the Huntsville WFO on climate services related both to information to the public and weather observational issues,” said John Christy, Alabama’s state climatologist and a professor of atmospheric science at UAH. “Having the Huntsville WFO in the same building with the Alabama Office of Climatology is a natural in that there is never a clear distinction between weather and climate in either the mind of the general public – or the professional.”

NOAA's National Weather Service is the primary source of weather data, forecasts and warnings for the United States and its territories. The National Weather Service operates the most advanced weather and flood warning and forecast system in the world.

The Commerce Department’s National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) is dedicated to enhancing economic security and national safety through the prediction and research of weather and climate-related events and providing environmental stewardship of our nation’s coastal and marine resources.

On the Web:


NOAA National Weather Service:

NOAA Weather Service Southern Region: