Virtual Office Tour

The Operations Area


Here's where it all comes together. Welcome to the Forecast Operations Area. The operations room you see here is the heart of NWS Wakefield. It is here that we compose all of the warnings and forecasts that are issued by this office. Obviously, computers play a large role in the job of weather analysis and forecasting. Most of the computers you see here are a part of AWIPS, the Advanced Weather Interactive Processing System, which is our primary computer system. We'll discuss AWIPS in a greater detail in a moment.

Since the office is always open, operational personnel are required to work rotating shifts. In order to help the night shift stay alert while on duty and sleep better during the day, our lights have a dimmer switch that can be set to the specifications of each forecaster. Now lets take a closer look at what the people that work in this area actually do.

Our forecast shifts are separated into two parts; the public forecast and the marine forecast, with both forecasts extending out to 7 days in the future. The public forecaster handles the temperature forecast for our area, as well as the forecast for sky cover (amount of clouds), precipitation chances and more. The marine forecaster is responsible for the forecast of wind intensity/direction, and wave height on our coastal waters and the Chesapeake Bay. We also have an assistant forecaster during day and evening shifts, usually an hydrometeorological technician (HMT) or a meteorologist intern, who helps with our aviation forecast and most anything else that may come up during a forecast shift.

You'll notice one of our forecasters hard at work on the forecast. The three computer monitors he is in front of (picured in detail below) are part of the AWIPS graphics station, which shows detailed graphical forecast information. The fourth monitor from the left is the text workstation, where NWS text forecasts are ingested. Finally, the fifth computer on the desk is a PC, which we use for access the internet and e-mail, as well as to interrogate weather analysis software, such as the BUFKIT software

Behind the desktop computer, you'll notice the large situational awareness display (above). This is a series of televisions with which we monitor national news networks and local broadcast channel feeds. This is especially useful during severe weather events, when we can monitor the broadcasts of our media partners for severe weather reports.

Here's an up-close look at the AWIPS graphical workstation I alluded to earlier (and pictured above). It happens to be my turn at the marine forecast desk, so this is my typical set-up on my work station. On the left, notice the visible satellite picture with local/regional weather observations. In the center, a computer model wind forecast, which I am using to determine the wind speed forecast. On the right, is a program called the Graphical Forecast Editor (GFE). For years prior to its inception, NWS forecasters have spent time analyzing observations and model data and then typing their forecasts. With IFPS/GFE, forecasters manipulate the actual model guidance in digital format and the computer then automatically generates all of the various text products from this digital database. In addition to the traditional text products, an entire suite of forecast graphics are produced and posted to our web page. The latest graphics are available here.

Lets take a look around the Operations Area and see what else we can show you!



National Weather Service
Wakefield, Virginia
10009 General Mahone Hwy Wakefield, VA 23888

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