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NWS Marks 150th Anniversary

7 Feb 2020, 3:57 pm

A happy birthday belongs to the National Weather Service (NWS) which is celebrating its 150th year of existence!

While under different names, NWS has dedicated itself to protecting property and saving lives since the mid-to-late 19th Century. Today, the organization has come a long way. WeatherNation was able to sit down with Dr. Louis W. Uccellini, Director of the National Weather Service, and discuss how far we’ve come in the last 150 years.

At the 100th annual meeting of the American Meteorological Society, WeatherNation was able to sit down with Dr. Louis W. Uccellini to talk about the 150th anniversary of the National Weather Serivce, or NWS. The Weather Bureau, as it was originally known, was created just after the Civil War.

“It was driven, in large part, by people who were interested in protecting the lives of sailors crossing Lake Michigan and protecting the commerce associated with it because it was a major pathway for the expansion of the West,” describes Dr. Uccellini.

Originally part of the war department, the NWS has had many accomplishments and improvements over the decades, especially within the post-World War II days with the addition of radiosondes, commonly known as weather balloons. The balloons not only supplied real-time atmospheric data, but also helped with the development of numerical weather prediction, or simply, weather models.

“Given where we are now in numerical modeling and how pervasive its use is within the whole forecast process, that was done on all the backs of those people in the 50’s and 60’s. I consider that one of the intellectual achievements of the 20th Century,” explains Dr. Uccellini.

Computer modeling and satellite imagery continues to be upgraded. An example is the GOES satellites.

Dr. Uccellini remarks, “The imagery, the higher resolution imagery, and the increased temporal resolution down to every minute or even thirty seconds, we’re actually seeing the atmosphere as the fluid that we’ve been trying to see for the past 150 years.”

As we move through the new decade, Dr. Uccellini hopes the NWS can not only improve forecast methods, but improve communication to the public, “We have to connect to decision-makers. We have to deal with human factors. We’re building up the social side. We’re working on our partnerships, we’re working better inside the National Weather Service. We have a collaborative forecast process, because consistency is as important as accuracy.”

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