ESRL Global Systems Division

FSL Implements New VTEC Software for the National Weather Service

As part of their long-term agreement with the National Weather Service (NWS), the Forecast Systems Laboratory has just completed many months of intense development to implement the long-awaited Valid Time Event Code (VTEC) for NWS Watches, Warnings, and Advisories. On February 8, 2005, the NWS activated VTEC codes for severe thunderstorms and tornadoes. Codes for other hazardous weather will be activated this fall. VTEC allows NWS customers and partners to keep better track of hazardous weather events. It automates the dissemination of hazardous weather information to the public through a variety of devices, such as paging systems, personal digital assistants (PDAs) and television message crawl systems used to relay urgent severe weather and flood information.

Using this new VTEC software for short-fused watches, warnings, and advisories, forecasters can more easily define them in digital gridded form, the same way all other gridded weather information is created at local Weather Forecast Offices. Once these hazards are defined, they are automatically encoded in the text products that announce them to the general public, thus saving forecasters time and effort during severe weather events. With the touch of a button, one of over 40 hazardous weather messages is automatically generated, including the VTEC code which identifies the particular hazard (giving it a tracking number), start and end time, area of occurrence, and a text message that includes a human-readable version of this important information.

Disseminating VTEC-encoded products represents a major milestone for the NWS. For years NWS customers and clients have been discussing how to improve and clarify the dissemination of severe weather information to the general public. Correct use of product formats and codes is essential to ensure timely delivery of severe weather alerts and the ability of users to select, manipulate, and redistribute the information regardless of the dissemination method of receipt. This new software package is a significant achievement toward this goal.

Contact information
Name: Carl S Bullock
Tel: 303 497 7247