At times I have criticized some National Weather Service policies or forecasts, but let me assure you, their forecasters are experienced and highly trained, and they make substantial sacrifices for all of us (like accepting rotating shifts). Often TV weathercasters talk about "my forecast" or the "KXXX custom doppler-radar forecast" or whatever, but let me tell you a secret--they look at and rarely deviate far from NWS predictions. Twice I had my 101 classes write down the TV forecasts for an extended period and then we compared them to the NWS predictions--no statistically significant difference. (In fact, one of the leading local TV weathercasters called the chair of my department complaining about such activities! This is why tenure is good.)
What do you have to do to become a NWS meteorologist? You need a real degree in meteorology (at least a B.S.)--which means you had a lot of math, physics, and atmospheric sciences. Getting into the NWS is quite difficult and they only have a few positions a year open--so those that get in are strong candidates. The NWS then has an extended and comprehensive training program and intern forecasters have to spend several years working their way up until they become journeyman staff.
Here in Seattle the local office is at the NOAA Sand Point facility, and they have a nice office with a wonderful view of Lake Washington. The "Meteorologist in Charge"--the head weather honcho-- is Brad Colman, who has exceptional academic credentials (Ph.D. from one of the top programs, MIT), and deep operational experience.
|Brad Colman, Seattle NWS Head Guy. He likes blue shirts.|
|Ted Buehner working on an AWIPS Workstation|
|NWS Forecaster Working. Looks like a good storm!|
|This is the Graphical Forecast Editor (GFE) used by NWS forecasters to create forecasts. Not for color-blind folks.|
Behind each office there is a huge and expensive infrastructure--the observation systems, the computer forecasts on large supercomputers, the satellite and radar networks, and much more. It is amazing it all works so seamlessly. And there is more. There are major NWS centers for specific forecasting issues: a Storm Prediction Center for severe convection, a Aviation Weather Center for aviation meteorology, a Marine Prediction Center for the seas, etc. All the numerical weather forecasts are made by the Environmental Prediction Center in Maryland (I was there last week). They are located in an old and decrepit building worthy of a wrecking ball (no I wouldn't waste a good wrecking ball on it)--but next year they are moving to a state-of-the-art facility near the University of Maryland.
There is a lot of carping about supporting the Federal government these days, but some agencies, like the National Weather Service, are worth every penny and provide a huge benefit to the nation.