NOAA 99-053
Contact: Barry Reichenbaugh


A high-tech, interactive weather computer and communications system has been installed in 152 National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration sites across the country, completing a decade-long effort to revamp weather services and significantly improve weather forecasting, Deputy Secretary of Commerce Robert Mallett announced.

"Today we celebrate the beginning of modernized operations for NOAA's National Weather Service," said Deputy Secretary Mallett. "The installation of Advanced Weather Interactive Processing System (AWIPS) units is a milestone in the revolution of weather services for our country.

"Timely, accurate, weather, water and climate information impacts the economy and the well-being of every citizen and business in this nation. We will continue supporting the research, development and installation of new tools that will help the National Weather Service meet the demands of the next century," he said.

AWIPS provides significant improvements in weather- and flood-related services. The system gives NWS forecasters access to other tools developed and installed under the modernization program such as satellite imagery, Doppler radar data, automated weather observations and computer-generated numerical forecasts, all at one workstation.

"The modernization process we've been engaged in for the past decade is not just a Weather Service success story, but a NOAA success story," said NOAA Administrator D. James Baker. "Many NOAA scientists have contributed research and development expertise to the systems the Weather Service uses, and NOAA's satellite and data management branches are critical elements in the weather services provided to the nation."

"Our vision is to be America's no-surprise weather service and we are well on our way," said National Weather Service Director John J. Kelly Jr.

Kelly cited examples demonstrating the modernization program's success: AWIPS and Doppler radar helped forecasters in Norman, Okla., detect tornadoes and rapidly issue severe weather warnings that alerted people to the deadly tornado outbreak in May and helped save lives; and in July 1998, the advanced graphic display capabilities of AWIPS helped forecasters in Salt Lake City see heavy rains in Zion National Park. A timely flash-flood warning resulted and at least 40 hikers avoided a flooding canyon.

"Completing the National Weather Service modernization program has been a top priority for Commerce Secretary Daley and the Administration, who deserve credit for seeing this program to completion," said Deputy Secretary Mallett. "Secretary Daley commissioned a cost-review, ensured that NOAA stayed within budget, and made major management changes at the National Weather Service that increased accountability and guaranteed success."

For an investment that costs each American about $4 per year, the NWS issues more than 734,000 weather forecasts and 850,000 river and flood forecasts, in addition to between 45,000 and 50,000 potentially life-saving severe weather warnings annually. Statistics show overall improvements in forecast accuracy and in the timeliness of severe weather and flood warnings.

"The modernization program is a great example of teamwork between industry and government, said Kelly. "The completion of AWIPS is a testament to years of hard work by hundreds of government and private sector individuals."

"We take great satisfaction in having reached this important milestone in the AWIPS program," said Len Pomata, Litton vice president and president of PRC, the primary AWIPS contractor. "But we are most proud to be an integral part of this important national program and look forward to continuing to work with the Weather Service to constantly improve the life-saving capabilities of the AWIPS system."

The AWIPS program has twice been recognized: in June, AWIPS earned a Computerworld/Smithsonian Award for using technology in an innovative way to benefit society, and in 1997 AWIPS earned a "Best of What's New" award from Popular Science magazine.

More information about AWIPS is available on the Internet at:

Note to Editors: Radio actualities featuring Commerce Secretary William M. Daley, NOAA Administrator D. James Baker, and National Weather Service Director Jack Kelly will be available after 2:30 p.m. on Wednesday, July 28. Call (877) 723-4632.