The National Weather Service and How It Impacts Our Lives

The National Weather Service and How It Impacts Our Lives

The National Weather Service is the federal agency responsible for monitoring weather conditions across the United States.


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Earth Science, Meteorology, Geography

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The National Weather Service (NWS) is a United States government agency. It monitors weather across the nation.

NWS data is used to create weather forecasts. Americans might see these forecasts on their TV news or their phone's weather app. They tell people if it's going to be sunny, rainy, or windy. People rely on these forecasts every day.

The NWS is located in Silver Spring, Maryland. It sends out as many as 1.5 million forecasts a year.

The NWS has nearly 5,000 employees. It operates all day and night. The NWS issues weather warnings. The warnings tell people about heat, cold, storms, and tornadoesMeteorologists, or weather forecasters, use these warnings. They also use NWS maps to predict the weather.

Storm Predictions Can Save Lives

The NWS also watches for upcoming weather. Knowing about serious weather ahead of time can save lives. In May 2013, the National Weather Service predicted stormy weather in the state of Oklahoma. This was five days before a big tornado hit the city of Moore. Half an hour before the tornado touched down, the NWS issued a tornado warning. Twenty-four people were killed and hundreds were injured. But the warning probably prevented many more deaths and injuries.

Watching the weather is a big job. The NWS has 122 separate offices. They are located all across the United States. Each office focuses on weather in its nearby 20 to 50 counties. The NWS forecasters also live where other Americans do and know their area's weather patterns.

Planning Outdoor Activities

The NWS also watches recreation spots, such as mountain tops, lakes, and beaches. These areas can be tricky. Winds, storms, or heat can act differently near high elevations or waterways. This can create unusual weather. So, the NWS has stations and webcams in these places to show the weather in real-time.

The NWS has "mountain point forecasts." Hikers can check winds, temperatures, rain, or snow at the tops of mountains. The agency also has "marine point forecasts." These forecasts help people who live near lakes, rivers, and along the coasts. The forecasts warn people about winds and wave heights.

No matter what the weather, the National Weather Service has the nation covered.

Media Credits

The audio, illustrations, photos, and videos are credited beneath the media asset, except for promotional images, which generally link to another page that contains the media credit. The Rights Holder for media is the person or group credited.

Tyson Brown, National Geographic Society
National Geographic Society
Production Managers
Gina Borgia, National Geographic Society
Jeanna Sullivan, National Geographic Society
Program Specialists
Sarah Appleton, National Geographic Society, National Geographic Society
Margot Willis, National Geographic Society
Clint Parks
Last Updated

October 19, 2023

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