NOAA Weather Radio at Wakefield, VA

Weather offices all around the country are now using a computer synthesized voice for NOAA Weather Radio (NWR). The Wakefield office started partial broadcasts with the computer voice in November, 1998. Since that date, we have been using the computer voice primarily from about 11 p.m. to 10 am, and then using a "human voice" during the day and evening hours. Many other offices are using 100% computer voice, but we think it helps to "mix the program up" a little bit to try to retain some of the human element. We have five radio transmitters that are programmed from our office in Wakefield. These transmitters are at Salisbury, MD, Heathsville, VA, Richmond, VA, Driver (Norfolk), VA and Margarettsville, NC.

We have had only about a dozen comments from listeners regarding the new voice. Some people said that they did not like to listen to the new "foreign" man we hired. Others asked us to change the pronunciation of specific words, which we can do. Still others were not aware that we were using a computer voice at all. Some have said that they like the new voice. We plan to ultimately have a mix of humans and computer voices on the radio. During our testing and training period, we have been either "all human" or "all computer." That will change by the end of March, 1999, so that we will typically have a mix of voices.

We really want the computer voice to be as understandable as possible. We can modify the way certain words are pronounced or change the overall speed of the voice. If you hear specific words that are not understandable, please let us know and we will try to correct them. We have made great progress in improving the sound of the computer voice, however it will take us some time to find every word that needs to be changed.

There are some advantages to the computer voice. When we use it, the data is put on the radio as soon as it is available, so it is definitely more timely. For example, the marine forecasts come from several different weather offices that can issue the forecast an hour or more earlier than surrounding offices. With a human, we would wait until all of the forecasts were available, and then record the forecast on the radio. With the computer voice, the entire forecast is updated whenever any new part of the forecast is issued. Likewise, the hourly weather roundup and the marine observations are broadcast as soon as the data are available.

We are also using the computer voice to help us use our staff as efficiently as possible. No one wants to pay more taxes, and so we must find ways to "do more with less." We are committed to making the program the best possible. If you have any suggestions for improvements, please let us know.

Any suggestions or comments should be directed to:

Anthony Siebers, Meteorologist in Charge
10009 General Mahone Highway
Wakefield, VA 23888

phone: 757-899-5730 ext 222