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The Distiction Between NOAA and NWS

It should be noted that all civilian government entities involved in weather warnings and forecasting outlined in the “Links” section, first fall under one of the cabinet level of the Executive branch of the federal government, the Department of Commerce (or DOC). The DOC has fourteen agencies under its administrative control, of which the largest agency in that cabinet level office is the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, known to the general public as “NOAA”.  NOAA is also the parent agency of six other sub-agencies of its own. The largest sub-agency of NOAA is the National Weather Service (or “NWS”).

The NWS provides weather, hydrologic, and climate forecasts and warnings for the United States, its territories, adjacent waters and ocean areas, for the protection of life and property and the enhancement of the national economy. NWS data and products form a national information database and infrastructure, which can be used by other governmental  agencies, the private sector, the public, and the global community.

All line office entities noted in the previous “Links” section are also administered under the NWS.

Please note that if we focus in on the last word in NOAA…”A”, which is the letter for the word “Administration”, nothing needs more to be said, as far as a mariner’s weather interest is concerned. So now lets concentrate on the last letter in NWS…then the letter “S” represents the word “Service”, then that word should clearly stand out!  So mariners now need to focus on the “NWS” which is the only line office sub-agency within NOAA that has the responsibility of issuing watches, warnings, and forecasts to the general public.

The NWS has its own “administrative” support structures in place.  For example, it has national and sub-regional support offices, where its key national support office is the NWS Headquarters (or NWSHQ). This national support office sets policy and guidelines for six other sub-regional support offices within the NWS infrastructure.  These sub-regional support offices are located in various parts of the U.S. mainland, and Hawaii.  For examples, Southern Region Headquarters (or SR), in Ft Worth, Texas, and Western Region Headquarters (or WR), in Salt Lake City, UT, administer and support smaller line NWS operational field forecast offices (such as NWSFO Seattle-Tacoma…already noted in the second page of the “Links” section). Operational NWSFO line offices are scattered throughout the U.S., depending on the sub-regional support office that administrative supports them. They extend from Puerto Rico, Alaska, Hawaii, and the U.S. territories in Guam and American Samoa. These offices are the nuts and bolts of NWS warnings and forecasts to the general public. Mariners once again need to differentiate those offices with local marine warnings and forecast responsibilities from those who do not.

Mariners should also note that under the NWS, are specialized national centers, of which there are eleven. Mariners need to focus only on one of the eleven centers, the National Center for Environmental Prediction (or NCEP).  This specialized support center administers nine other major centralized national centers (some of them were noted previously from the main “Links” page).  For example, the Tropical Analysis and Forecast Branch (or TAFB), and the National Hurricane Center (or NHC) fall under the administration of the Tropical Prediction Center (or TPC). TPC which houses both TAFB and the NHC are located in the same building on the campus of Florida Atlantic University, in Miami, Fla. This unique structure is really internal to the NWS specialized national support centers, where administrative and operational control fall under “NCEP”. These include the previously noted Ocean Prediction Center (or OPC) and TPC (TAFB and NHC).

The differences between a specialized national center under NCEP, for example, the OPC, and a smaller NWS line field forecast office which falls under a sub-regional support office such as Western Region Headquarters, located in Salt Lake City, UT (i.e, WR), for example,the National Weather Service Forecast Office (or NWSFO Seattle-Tacoma, WA) lies in area of coverage and scope.  They are separate but linked because they both have warning and forecast responsibilities that often overlap. There is coordination between the two separate line offices to ensure seamless continuity of warnings and forecasts. Note the NFD Marine Forecast Discussion (MIMPAC or MIMATN) on the second page of the “Current Marine Analysis and Forecast Charts from your Ocean Prediction Center”.

For those of you who want more clarifications on the structure of the NWS, I invite you to view directly the following NWS website: