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Atmosphere Academy: Putting the weather forecast together


There are some basic tools that all meteorologists use – thermometers for temperature, barometers for pressure, hygrometers for measuring humidity. Of course, the technology behind these instruments has changed through the years.

Since we cover counties all over southeastern North Carolina, we rely on computers to ingest all of this data into our weather lab. At NewsChannel 3, we have no less than 10 individual computers in use. Some of these computers work in the background, out of sight. They’re responsible for ingesting observations from weather sensing sites all across the country. They also scan for any announcements from agencies of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. Alerts, such as hurricane advisories or local severe storm warnings are at the top of the list. Some of our computers are a little more visible to our viewers on a daily basis.

Have you ever wondered about those maps and graphics you see on-air everyday?

All of those animations are designed here by our meteorologists using special software licensed exclusively to our station. This enables us to represent complex computer model data in a way that is easy for the public to understand. Of course, when the weather is bad, it’s especially important to explain things in a clear, concise way. Our Doppler Radar Networks, known as ESP 3 (Enhanced Storm Prediction), is exactly that. It shows you where storms are located, yes, but our interface contains a special program – a modeling program that analyzes the structure of developing storms. We can scan for certain parameters indicative of severe weather, such as hail shafts and rotational patterns. And if you think all of that sounds complicated, just think about the maintenance on these computers.

After all, updates, upgrades, virus protection, data back-up- these are issues that all computer based industries have to maintain. But it’s worth all the work.

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videoEvery day, you tune-in to WWAY to see the weather forecast. But do you know how it is put together? Jerry Jackson has more in this week’s edition of Atmosphere Academy.

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