Table of Contents - Click on section heading for detailed answersGeneral Information
What is NOAA Weather Radio?
NOAA Weather Radio is a nationwide network of radio stations broadcasting continuous weather information directly from National Weather Service (NWS) offices across the country. The broadcasts include warnings, watches, forecasts, current weather observations, and other hazard information, 24 hours a day.
Working with the Federal Communications Commission's Emergency Alert System, NOAA Weather Radio is an "all hazards" radio network, making it the single source for the most comprehensive weather and emergency information available to the public. It broadcasts warning and post-event information for all types of hazards - both natural (such as tornadoes, earthquakes and tsunamis) and technological (such as chemical releases or oil spills). NOAA Weather Radio will also be used to broadcast AMBER alerts for missing children.
Known as the "Voice of the National Weather Service," the NOAA Weather Radio network has more than 750 transmitters, covering nearly 90% of the 50 states, along with the adjacent coastal waters, Puerto Rico, the U.S. Virgin Islands, and the U.S. Pacific Territories. NOAA Weather Radio broadcasts in the VHF public service band (between 162.400 and 162.550 megahertz (MHz)) and hence you need a special radio receiver or scanner in order to pick up the signal.
Where are the NOAA Weather Radio stations in this area, and on what frequencies do they broadcast?
Our office broadcasts using eight transmitters, from: Philadelphia, Hibernia Park and Allentown in Pennsylvania; Atlantic City, Hardyston Township, and Southard in New Jersey; Lewes in Delaware; and Sudlersville in Maryland. There are other transmitters operated by neighboring NWS offices which some listeners may also be able to receive. These include: New York City and Beacon New York, Wilkes Barre and Harrisburg Pennsylvania; and Baltimore and Salisbury Maryland.
All NOAA Weather Radio stations broadcast on one of eight frequencies in the VHF Public Service band: 162.400 megahertz (MHz), 162.425 MHz, 162.450 MHz, 162.475 MHz, 162.500 MHz, 162.525 MHz, and 162.550 MHz. While some older Weather Radio receivers will only have three frequencies (162.400, 162.475 and 162.550), any receiver sold today should be able to pick up stations on any of the seven frequencies.
Click here for a map showing all the NOAA Weather Radio stations in the area, as well as the frequencies on which they transmit.
What is the typical broadcast range of a NOAA Weather Radio transmitter?
The normal broadcast range of a full-power transmitter (1000 watts) over level terrain is approximately 40 miles. The effective range depends on terrain, height and power of the transmitting antenna, quality of the receiver, and whether you use an indoor or outdoor antenna. Before you buy a Weather Radio receiver, make sure that your area is covered by one of the transmitters.
I will be traveling to another area in the United States. How can I check what the NOAA Weather Radio coverage is in that area?
The National Weather Service has maps of NOAA Weather Radio coverage by state, and listings of coverage by both state and county. There are also computer-projected signal reception maps for each transmitter. Go to: http://www.nws.noaa.gov/nwr/listcov.htm
I will be traveling to Canada. Will my NOAA Weather Radio receiver work there?
Yes, it should. Canada has a Weatheradio network which broadcasts on the same frequencies that our U.S. Weather Radio stations do. The Canadian system uses concatenated English and French voices (where words and phrases spoken by an actual person are spliced together). For a listing of Canadian Weatheradio stations and broadcast frequencies, go to: http://www.msc.ec.gc.ca/msb/weatheradio/
Receivers and Reception
Where can I purchase a NOAA Weather Radio receiver?
NOAA Weather Radio receivers come in a variety of sizes, styles and prices. They can be found in many electronics stores, or purchased directly from radio manufacturers and outlets found on the Internet.
How much does a NOAA Weather Radio receiver cost?
NOAA Weather Radios range in cost from $25 up to $100 or more, depending on the quality of the receiver and the number of features it has.
What types of NOAA Weather Radio receivers are available?
NOAA Weather Radio receivers come in many sizes and with a variety of functions. Many radios can receive an alarm tone, triggered when the NWS issues severe weather announcements or emergency information. Most NOAA Weather Radio receivers are either battery-operated portables or AC-powered desktop models with battery backup, so they can be used in many different situations. Some CB radios, scanners, short wave and AM/FM radios are also capable of receiving Weather Radio broadcasts.
What features should I look for in a NOAA Weather Radio receiver?
There are several features to look for in a NOAA Weather Radio. The most desirable feature is an alarm tone. This allows you to have the radio turned on but silent, listening for a special tone that is broadcast before watch and warning messages. During an emergency, National Weather Service forecasters will interrupt routine weather radio programming and send out special tones that activates the Weather Radios in the listening area.
The latest generation of Weather Radio receiver allows you to pre-select the National Weather Service alerts you want to receive according to local geographic areas (counties, or in some cases, portions of counties). Look for receivers with the SAME feature (Specific Area Message Encoding). Such a receiver is capable of turning itself on from a silent mode when the digital code for the pre-selected geographic area is broadcast. The SAME tones, as they are called, are sent before most short-fused weather warnings, and some watches.
In addition, a good receiver should be able to operate on batteries during times when electrical services may be interrupted. Look for radios with an AC adapter and battery compartment. The radio should be tunable or switchable to all seven Weather Radio frequencies. Some older models receive only three frequencies which will not work in all locations.
Can I receive NOAA Weather Radio broadcasts in my vehicle?
Several automobile manufacturers (e.g., BMW, Mercedes, Range Rover and Saab) equip their cars with radios capable of receiving Weather Radio broadcasts. Several manufacturers of car radios (e.g., Audiovox, Clarion, and Panasonic) sell in-dash units capable of receiving them. Manufacturers of citizen band radios with Weather Radio channels include Cobra, Maxon, Midland, Radio Shack and Uniden.
For those of you with just a regular AM/FM radio in your car, the State of New Jersey rebroadcasts NOAA Weather Radio on their Highway Advisory radio stations when there are no other highway or traffic problems to broadcast. There are 24 such low-power transmitters across the state. They are:
New Jersey Turnpike Authority, near the following exits
Exit 1 - Carneys Point - 1610 kHz AM
Exit 3 - Bellmawr - 1610 kHz AM
Exit 5 - Mount Laurel - 1610 kHz AM
Exit 7 - Bordentown - 1610 kHz AM
Exit 8 - Jamesburg - 1610 kHz AM
Exit 11 - Woodbridge - 1610 kHz AM
Exit 13A - Elizabeth - 1610 kHz AM
Exit 14B - Jersey City - 590 kHz AM
Exit 16W - North Arlington - 1610 kHz AM
Exit 18W - Fort Lee - 590 kHz AM
New Jersey Department of Transportation
Parsippany - I-80 at I-287 - 530 kHz AM
Paramus - NJ-4 at NJ-17 - 530 kHz AM
Elmwood Park - I-80 at NJ-17 - 530 kHz AM
Totowa - I-80 at US-46 and NJ-23 - 530 kHz AM
Parsippany - I-80 at I-280 - 530 kHz AM
Allamuchy - I-80 at Allamuchy - 530 kHz AM
Edison - US-1 at I-287 - 1340 kHz AM
Lawrence - US-1 at I-295 - 1380 kHz AM
Carneys Point - I-295 near Delaware - 830 kHz AM
Garden State Parkway
Exit 98 - Hamilton - 1610 kHz AM
Port Authority of New York and New Jersey
Newark Airport - 530 kHz AM
Union Beach, Sandy Hook
Union Beach - NJ-36 and Sandy Hook - 1610 kHz AM
Atlantic City Convention Center and Visitor’s Authority
Pleasantville - ACE Toll Plaza - 1610 kHz AM
Delaware Department of Transportation
Wilmington, DE - Near Delaware Memorial Bridge - 1380 kHz AM
Other states, such as Pennsylvania and New York, often rebroadcast NOAA Weather Radio at Interstate rest areas.
Can I receive NOAA Weather Radio broadcasts on the Internet?
There are a limited number of NOAA Weather Radio products available from our web site. Click here to view the available products or here for the national listing.
Can I pick up NOAA Weather Radio on my Marine Radio?
Yes, if your marine radio has the WX (or Weather) channels. They correspond to the Weather Radio frequencies as follows:
WX1 - 162.550 MHz
WX2 - 162.400 MHz
WX3 - 162.475 MHz
WX4 - 162.425 MHz
WX5 - 162.450 MHz
WX6 - 162.500 MHz
WX7 - 162.525 MHz
For more information on National Weather Service Marine product dissemination, go to: http://www.nws.noaa.gov/om/marine/wxradio.htm.
Are there special receivers for the hearing or visually impaired?
The hearing and visually impaired can also receive warning alarms by connecting a specially-designed weather radio to other kinds of attention-getting devices like strobe lights, bed-shakers, personal computers and text printers. Many pager companies now offer alerting pagers that provide the latest weather information.
For more information on Special Needs Weather Radio receivers, go to: http://www.nssl.noaa.gov/NWR/ , or to: http://www.nws.noaa.gov/nwr/special_need.htm .
Why does the quality of the signal vary so much from place to place or over time?
While the typical range for Weather Radio reception is about 40 miles from the transmitter, as with many VHF broadcasts, reception can vary depending on atmospheric conditions. The variation is more noticeable near the fringe of the transmitter’s coverage area.
Many other things can affect reception. Large bodies of salt water tend to greatly increase range. Forests, deserts, and hills/mountains tend to greatly reduce reception. Reception in cities may be reduced due to steel and concrete, while higher elevations will enhance the signal. Reception can vary from room to room. Mineral deposits in the ground can affect your radio signal. Moving even a few feet can change a weak signal to a strong one.
It may help to be near a window facing the direction of the station, away from other electronic equipment, and on an upper level of a house or office building. You may need to get a receiver with a good quality internal antenna, or connect your receiver to an external antenna.
Generally, the least expensive Weather Radio models are the ones most susceptible to reception problems. Many models will have a connection for an external antenna. You can buy an external antenna from an electronics store, or make your own. You can also tap into your regular outside or inside TV antenna.
I live in an area where I can’t receive NOAA Weather Radio broadcasts. Is there another system in place for me to get forecasts and warnings directly form the National Weather Service?
The National Weather Service works in partnership with media outlets across the country to get the most current and accurate weather information to the public. Tune in to your local radio and television stations for the latest weather forecasts, watches and warnings. NWS products and services are also available on the Internet at: http://www.nws.noaa.gov. Delivery of data across the Internet, however, cannot be guaranteed because of potential interruption of service.
Another low-cost method for receiving National Weather Service's (NWS) essential information is now available on a wireless data system. Called the Emergency Managers Weather Information Network, or EMWIN, this system presents the information directly on your home or office computer in a user-friendly graphics display. Simple mouse clicks immediately retrieve the latest weather and hydrologic warnings, watches, forecasts, statements, observations and other data in text format, along with a sub-set of weather graphics including the national radar summary and some satellite imagery. In all, over 6500 products are available. Users may set various alarms to be alerted to particular information, either for their local area or from adjacent areas.
The EMWIN weather information is free; the only cost is for the receiving equipment and inexpensive commercial software. This digital datastream is available nationwide directly from several satellites and, in an increasing number of locations, in an easier and less costly manner using local radio rebroadcasts and other techniques. This approach provides the necessary redundancy for reliable data reception by a wide variety of users.
EMWIN was designed to be a low-speed (currently 1200 bits per second, but expected to increase), low-cost alternative for emergency management officials and others that have no access to weather data or have few resources to afford such data. Even at this current low speed, over 5000 pages of information can be received each day. It was not designed, however, to replicate such other existing weather dissemination systems as NOAA Weather Radio. For more information about EMWIN, go to: http://www.weather.gov/emwin/index.htm
How can I help my community receive NOAA Weather Radio broadcasts?
The goal of the National Weather Service and emergency preparedness agencies is to expand the reach of weather radio broadcasts to cover 95 percent of the U.S. population. Innovative partnerships between the NWS, private industry, and state and local governments are fueling this expansion. You can help foster such partnerships in your community. For more information concerning developing a partnership with the NWS, contact our office at 609-261-6615 between 8:00 AM and 4:00 PM weekdays, or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.
I live west (or south) of Philadelphia and can no longer receive the signal from the Philadelphia transmitter. What happened, and are you planning to do anything to fix it?
In April 2002 a Weather Radio station was installed on the upper Eastern Shore of Maryland near Sudlersville. That station reaches nearly all of the upper Delmarva peninsula, and even into southern Chester County Pennsylvania and portions of Salem and Cumberland Counties New Jersey.
In 2005 a new low-power transmitter was installed in Hibernia Park, PA, western Chester County, which covers the rest of the area no longer served adequately by the Philadelphia station.
Voices of NOAA Weather Radio
Are the people who read the forecasts real or not?
Most of the voices you hear are computer generated. The male voice that reads most of the public forecasts and observations on our transmitters is called “Tom”, while the female voice that reads the marine forecasts is called “Donna”. The initial computerized voice that is still heard giving the time announcement is called “Paul”. Real human voices are only heard sparingly.
“Paul” is based on the DECTalk system, initially developed by (then) Digital Equipment Corporation in the 1980s. He is completely synthesized, meaning that the computer algorithms produce all the sounds from scratch and put them together to form the words and phrases you hear. Any particular word will sound the same every time it is pronounced, no matter what the context.
“Tom” and “Donna” are newer voices, based on the Speechworks product Speechify. They are examples of concatenated-synthesized speech, where recordings of actual voices are parsed into the parts of syllables (diphones), then put back together using computer algorithms to sound more life-like than a purely synthesized voice like Paul. They also try and pronounce words according to context (i.e., where they are placed in the sentence), to give the broadcasts a more true-to-life sound. Unfortunately, our forecasts are not always written in complete sentences, which can confuse the algorithms that drive the voices and result in less than perfect intonations.
Why don’t you use real people all the time?
There are two main reasons why “real” voices aren’t heard all the time.
The first reason is to speed delivery of short-fused warnings over the radio. Manually recording warnings require a number of steps to ensure that the proper counties will be toned and that the proper valid time is encoded. The whole process takes minutes from when a warning is issued to when it is broadcast. Automated recordings reduce that time to seconds, which could mean the difference between life and death if you are in the path of an oncoming severe thunderstorm or tornado.
The second reason is that our office has eight separate NOAA Weather Radio transmitters, each with its own specific broadcast suite. Years ago, when our office only broadcast on one transmitter, it wasn’t that difficult to keep it updated manually. It would be virtually impossible to do that with eight transmitters, as our staffing levels have fallen. We typically have only two or three meteorologists working at any given time.
What happened to the other male computer voice that you used to broadcast?
The initial computerized voice we began using in 1999 (aka “Paul”, with the Scandinavian accent), was not received warmly by many NOAA Weather Radio listeners nationwide. The voice was not easy to understand when you first heard it. That was a problem for those who just used their Weather Radio to receive warnings. Critical warning information (e,.g., where and/or when) could be missed if the radio voice was not immediately understandable.
So, in the fall of 2000, the National Weather Service embarked on a program to improve the computerized voice of NOAA Weather Radio. Two new voices from Speechworks (“Tom” and “Donna”) were selected in August 2001. Our office was the first in the country to broadcast the new voices in January 2002. By late summer 2002, Tom and Donna were being used by most offices nationwide.
Although a few of our listeners came to enjoy “Paul”, most seem to prefer “Tom” and “Donna”, so “Paul” has been phased out. Because of the way our NOAA Weather Radio system is configured, “Paul” can still be heard giving the time announcement every ten minutes.
I’m not a fan of any of the computerized voices. Are there any improvements coming in the near future?
The whole computerized speech industry is “hot” right now, and there are many companies worldwide trying to advance the voices used in text-to-speech applications - such as those used with NOAA Weather Radio.
Speechworks has also developed a Spanish voice for NOAA Weather Radio, which has been used by some offices beginning in 2003 (but not here) where there is a significant Spanish-speaking population.
I heard a word (or phrase) that was mispronounced. Why can’t you fix it?
With eight different transmitters playing over hundreds of separate products each and every day, it’s not possible to continuously monitor all the broadcasts to ensure everything is being pronounced properly. We have gone through most of the words and place names that appear regularly, and have added pronunciations for the voices to use if the default pronunciation was inadequate.
Unfortunately, especially with “Tom” and “Donna”, the advanced algorithms will sometimes try to change the pronunciation of a word or phrase based on context, even if is has been entered manually in the system.
It’s also possible that a mispronounced word was misspelled in the text. The computer algorithms will just try and read the word the way it appears, with unexpected results.
However, we are always interested in feedback when you hear something that doesn’t sound right. You may either call our Public Service line at 609-261-6615 between 8:00 AM and 4:00 PM weekdays and pass along the problem word to the person who answers the phone, or send an e-mail to email@example.com. Either way, please let us know which transmitter you were listening to, the approximate time you heard the problem word or phrase, which voice said it, and if possible, which product it was in (e.g., public forecast, winter storm warning, marine forecast, etc.).
Watches, Warnings and Tones/Alarms
My NOAA Weather Radio often alarms when you issue watches and warnings that are far from my area. What can I do about that?
With the addition of the Specific Area Message Encoding (SAME) technology, life-saving messages broadcast on NOAA Weather Radio can be targeted to a more specific area, like a county or portion of a county, to bring more hazard-specific information to the listening audience. While older models of weather radio receivers will continue to work, to take full advantage of the specific area warning technologies, you will need to get a state-of-the-art receiver with digital SAME capabilities for receiving geographically specific warnings.
What is SAME and how did it evolve?
A special feature of the NOAA Weather Radio system that evolved in the 1960's was the transmission of a single tone at 1050 Hz prior to the broadcast of any message about a life or property threatening event. This became known as the Warning Alarm Tone (WAT). Special receivers were made by several companies to remain electronically on and receiving the broadcast signal, but with the speaker muted. When this type of radio detected the WAT, it automatically turned on the speaker allowing the message to be heard without the need for the owner/user to do anything.
In the Spring of 1974, the largest recorded outbreak of tornadoes in the nation’s history occurred. Conclusions of a survey following the disaster recommended the expansion of the Weather Radio network and to designate it as the only Federally operated broadcast system to communicate life and property threatening information “directly” to the public. This system was also tasked to disseminate nuclear attack warnings and other national emergencies. Techniques were developed allowing warnings broadcast over the Weather Radio to be rebroadcast over commercial radio and television stations as part of the Emergency Broadcast System (EBS).
The analog WAT technology served the Weather Radio network well until the mid 1980s, when the rapid expansion of cable television and the automation of commercial radio and television began to isolate the public from local sources of warning information. Typically, the WAT was transmitted for any watch or warning over an area of approximately 5,000 square miles, or about seven to ten average-sized counties.
Therefore, the typical receiver in the service area of the station might be activated many times for events far from its location for every time it alarmed for an event in the immediate area. Without staff at media facilities to manually evaluate the need to rebroadcast a Weather Radio message using the EBS, automatic rebroadcasting of all messages preceded by just the WAT was unacceptable and impractical. Even if stations and others with that type of need were willing to allow for this type of automatic capture, assuming the events for activation were critical, there was no way for automated equipment at the station to know when the message was complete and restore it back to normal operation. There was also the perception by the general public with WAT decoding receivers that any message that set their radio off that did not apply to their geographical area was a “false alarm” regardless of whether the warning may have been valid for another area or county in the service area of the Weather Radio transmitter.
Starting in 1985, the NWS began experimenting with putting special digital codes at the beginning and end of any message concerning life or property threatening event. The intent was to ultimately transmit a code with the initial broadcast of all Weather Radio messages. This system evolved into what is known today as NOAA Weather Radio Specific Area Message Encoding (NWR SAME). The SAME was adopted by the NWS for national implementation in 1988. Full scale implementation was funded by the NWS in early 1996 when the SAME technique was adopted by the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) as part of its new Emergency Alert System (EAS) that replaced the EBS in January 1997. The NOAA Weather Radio was an officially designated source for EAS messages from the NWS.
The SAME process was originally achieved using an encoder panel consisting of a number of buttons representing the functions to be performed, types or content of messages, the affected areas, and valid time of the message. A microprocessor in the panel interpreted button active status and created the proper codes and places them at the beginning and end of each message. The panel was electronically connected to the various types of message programming and playback consoles used by the NWS to broadcast messages over the Weather Radio transmitters. In 1998, the NWS replaced all of its existing inventory of message recording and playback equipment with the Console Replacement System (CRS). The SAME coding process is an integrated part of CRS. The existing encoder panels are only used as emergency backup in CRS.
In light of the events of September 11, 2001, will NOAA Weather Radio warn me of terrorist attacks or other non-weather emergencies?
Yes, NOAA Weather Radio is considered an “All-Hazards” public warning system, and will alert the listening public to non-weather emergencies, but ONLY when requested by the appropriate state or local officials. These include technological accidents (e.g., chemical releases, oil spills, nuclear power plant emergencies), AMBER alerts (for abducted children), and terrorist attacks.
I just purchased a NOAA Weather Radio with the SAME feature. Where can I get the geographic code(s) I need to program my receiver?
For any of our eight transmitters, go to our Weather Radio map at: http://www.erh.noaa.gov/er/phi/wxradio/nwrphicoverage.htm and click the appropriate transmitter button (in red), to get a list of the all the county and independent city SAME codes that will be broadcast by that transmitter.
For other spots in the United States, you can either go to: http://www.itl.nisa.gov/fipspubs/co-codes/states.htm and select the appropriate state or you can call toll-free 1-888-NWR-SAME (1-888-697-7263) for a voice menu to get the SAME codes for any area in the country.
I live in one county and work in another (or I live near the county line). Can I program more than one geographic SAME code into my NOAA Weather Radio receiver?
Most new SAME-capable NOAA Weather Radio receivers allow for multiple SAME codes to be entered. If that’s important to you, make sure to check for that functionality in whatever brand of SAME-capable receiver you look at before you buy.
How can I test my SAME radio to make sure that it is programmed properly?
Every National Weather Service office schedules a weekly test for each of its Weather Radio transmitters. Our tests are normally done every Wednesday, between 11 AM and Noon local time. If there is severe weather occurring, or the threat of severe weather exists during the normal test time, the test is postponed until the next available good-weather day (between 11 AM and Noon).
I’m having trouble receiving the SAME tones. What can I do?
There are a few things you might try.
First, ensure that you have the proper SAME code entered into your radio, and that your county is in the broadcast area for the transmitter. Go to:
http://www.erh.noaa.gov/er/phi/wxradio/nwrphicoverage.htm and click the appropriate transmitter button (in red) for a listing of the counties in the broadcast area and their SAME codes.
Second, your radio may not be able to pick up the tones if the overall signal reception is poor. Try to position your radio where the signal appears the strongest. If the signal fades in and out over time, you might try connecting an external antenna to your receiver.
Third, if you purchased your radio locally, take it back to see if a knowledgeable person there can check the programming or has other suggestions.
Which watches and warnings are currently toned or alarmed?
Generally, only those watches and warnings associated with an immediate or short-fused event are toned and alarmed. That means that Winter Storm watches and warnings are NOT alarmed, except for Blizzard warnings and for those Winter Storm warnings when the lead time is very short. Normally, Winter Storm warnings are issued many hours before the precipitation begins, as opposed to Tornado or Flash Flood warnings, where the lead time may only be minutes.
The following products are broadcast with the 1050 Hz alarm and the SAME tones:
Blizzard Warning - BZW
Civil Emergency Message - CEM
Flash Flood Warning - FFW
Flash Flood Watch - FFA
High Wind Warning - HWW
Hurricane Warning - HUW
Hurricane Watch - HUA
River Flood Warning - FLW
Routine Weekly Test - RWT
Severe Weather Statement - SVS
Severe Thunderstorm Warning - SVR
Severe Thunderstorm Watch - SVA
Tornado Warning - TOR
Tornado Watch - TOA
Tsunami Warning - TSW
Tsunami Watch - TSA
The following products are broadcast with only the 1050 HZ alarm (but see below about future plans):
Coastal Flood Warning (only for immediate life-threatening situations)
Special Marine Warning
Which watches and warnings will be alarmed in the future?
The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) in conjunction with the National Weather Service and other agencies, has proposed additional SAME event codes which are scheduled to take effect later in 2004. Some of the proposed new codes include:
Child Abduction Emergency - CAE
Coastal Flood Warning - CFW
Coastal Flood Watch - CFA
Special Marine Warning - SMW
Tropical Storm Warning - TRW
Tropical Storm Watch - TRA
In addition, new number codes will be added for coastal waters and the Great Lakes, so that mariners can specify just those areas for which they wish to receive Special Marine Warnings.
According to the FCC proposal, all new SAME radios manufactured after August 1, 2003 must be capable of receiving these new codes. At the present time, we are not sure how existing SAME radios will work with the new codes, but we will pass along any information as we receive it.
For more information on the SAME changes, go to http://www.nws.noaa.gov/om/NWS_EAS.shtm
Weather Radio Programming
What is your normal broadcast schedule?
Each of our eight transmitters has its own broadcast schedule. Go to our Weather Radio map at: http://www.erh.noaa.gov/er/phi/wxradio/nwrphicoverage.htm and click on a transmitter button (in red) to get the listening area and broadcast schedule. The broadcast schedule can also be heard during the full station ID, which normally plays at the top of every hour on all of our transmitters.
How often are the products updated?
The hourly weather observations are updated every hour between :10 and :15 after the hour.
The 7 day public forecast is normally prepared twice a day, at about 4 AM and 4 PM. However, the forecast is updated between the regularly scheduled times as needed, often in the late morning (9-11 AM) and evening (8-10 PM). The marine forecasts are issued four times a day, at about 4 AM, 10-11 AM, 3-4 PM, and 9-10 PM, but will also be updated between regular issuances if needed.
If a forecast starts out with: it was probably issued around:
TODAY 4 AM
THIS AFTERNOON 10 AM
TONIGHT 4 PM
OVERNIGHT 10 PM
The climate summaries (on those stations that play them), are issued twice a day, in the early morning and late afternoon.
All of the statements, watches, and warnings that play on the radio are issued on an as-needed basis. Statements concerning longer-term potential weather are often issued at about the same time as the public forecasts.
Why do the marine forecasts take so long to play?
Marine forecasts are issued for a stretch of coastline or bay. Sometimes, that forecast area is subdivided by the marine forecaster because the present or forecast wind, waves or weather varies across the area. This can make the marine broadcast twice or three times as long as it would be without the divisions. If the differences in the forecasts aren’t that significant, we will try to reassemble the text into a single forecast for broadcast, but when they are significant, we will usually leave them separated to keep the broadcast from becoming too complicated.
Why do the marine forecasts play so often?
On our three coastal Weather Radio stations (Atlantic City, Southard, and Lewes) the marine forecasts are scheduled to play every cycle, along with the short station ID, public forecast, current conditions, and any statements that might be in effect at the time. This is done because a larger portion of the listening audience is composed of mariners.
On our other (more inland) stations (Sudlersville, Philadelphia, Allentown, and Hardyston), the marine forecasts normally play every half hour, beginning at :15 and :45 after each hour. This is done to limit the amount of air time that the marine forecasts take up, while still making it relatively easy for those who want to hear them (they just need to tune in at :15 or :45 after the hour). Those who don’t want to hear the marine forecasts should try to listen at other times during the hour.
Note that if a short-fused warning (e.g., Tornado or Severe Thunderstorm) is issued, it will interrupt any message that is currently playing and be immediately broadcast.
Why is the full station ID so long?
The full station ID takes between two and three minutes to play around the top of every hour on our transmitters. It contains the station location, power, coverage area, and broadcast schedule, as well as contact information for our office. Much of that information is mandated by the Federal Communications Commission, while some of it is for the convenience of our listeners. The full station ID does not play during short-fused warnings (e.g., severe thunderstorm, tornado, or flash flood).
Why don’t you broadcast aviation forecasts?
NOAA Weather Radio was not set up to broadcast the specially encoded products which make up the aviation product suite. Aviation terminal, route, and area forecasts are available via a number of different outlets, including: telephone (1-800-WX-BRIEF); Internet (http://aviationweather.gov/); aviation radio (contact your local FAA Flight Service Station for the appropriate frequencies); and some private sector firms (for a fee).
Weather Radio Terminology
What are degree days?
Degree days are a measure of the departure of the average daily temperature (high+low divided by 2) from a given standard or base. Heating or cooling degree days are generated when the average temperature for the day is below 65̊ F (for heating) or above 65̊ F (for cooling). For example, if the average temperature for the day was 70, there were 5 cooling degree days (70-65=5), but if the average temperature for the day was 50, there were 15 heating degree days (65-50=15).
Many heating oil companies schedule their automatic deliveries by monitoring heating degree days totals, as the rate of heating fuel consumption is related to the number of heating degree days. Likewise, in the summer, total air-conditioning use over a season is related to the number of cooling degree days.
Degree days are also used for agricultural purposes to monitor crop development and maturity, with what are called “growing degree days”. There are different growing degree day base temperatures for different crops. For example, a corn growing degree day is computed using a base temperature of 50̊F, since little appreciable growth in corn is detected with temperatures lower than 50.
Degree days are accumulated over a “season” and the total used as an index to compare one year or season to another. The heating degree day “year” runs from July 1 through June 30, while for cooling and most growing degree days, the season starts on January 1.
What are the meteorological seasons, and how do they differ from “regular” winter, spring, summer, or autumn?
The astronomical seasons that people are most familiar with begin and end on the solstices and equinoxes (which normally occur around Mar 21, June 21, Sept 22, and Dec 22). But, since the dates of the solstices and equinoxes vary slightly from year to year (because the earth takes about 365 1/4 days to go around the sun), meteorologists use whole months to define the “meteorological” seasons. The three normally coldest months in the Northern Hemisphere are December, January, and February, and are called “meteorological winter”. The three normally warmest months are June, July, and August, and are called “meteorological summer”. “Meteorological spring” includes the months of March, April, and May, and “meteorological autumn” includes the months of September, October, and November.
What is Mean Lower Low Water?
Mean lower low water (abbreviated MLLW) is a tidal datum, or reference level against which the tide height is measured. It is the average of the lower of the two low water heights of each tidal (or lunar) day over a reference 19 year period. A 19 year period was chosen since it represents a full lunar cycle. Every 19 years, the moon, earth and sun are in essentially the same relative positions, and so, all the possible sun-earth-moon configurations should occur in a 19 year period.
What is an “astronomical tide”?
The astronomical tide represents the height of the tide due solely to the gravitational effects of the sun and moon, without any effects of wind, temperature, air pressure, ice cover, or other meteorological phenomena. The height of the astronomical tide (along with the times of high and low tides) is forecast for many locations along the coast, along with major bays and inlets and the tidal sections of large rivers. Click here for more information on area tide levels and forecasts.
What is the difference between a “mile per hour (MPH)” and a “knot”?
A mile per hour is a speed of 1 statute mile (5280 ft) per hour.
A knot is a speed of 1 nautical mile (roughly 6076 ft) per hour.
While MPH are generally used for wind speeds on land in public statements and forecasts, aviation and marine users normally refer to wind speeds in knots. To convert from knots to MPH, 1 knot = 1.15 MPH.
A nautical mile is approximately one minute of latitude (1/60th of a degree). Hence, one degree of latitude is approximately 60 nautical miles. Although the earth is not a perfect sphere, this conversion factor is close at most latitudes. Remember that the latitude lines run parallel to the equator, while the longitude lines run from pole to pole. A distance of one degree of longitude varies depending on the latitude, as longitude lines are much closer near the poles than they are near the equator.
You haven’t answered my question.
Where can I write or call to get more information?
There are many ways to contact us for more information.
National Weather Service
732 Woodlane Road
Mount Holly NJ 08060
609-261-6615 between 8:00 AM and 4:00 PM weekdays (excluding federal holidays).
National Weather Service Office of Climate, Water, and Weather Services
National Weather Service Public Affairs Office
National Weather Service Climate Prediction Center
State of New Jersey Department of Transportation
Glossary of Meteorology (2nd Ed), American Meteorological Society