The Chanhassen Weather Office (1995 to present)
The National Weather Service office in Chanhassen, Minnesota (NWS photo)
In March of 1995 the National Weather Service office made its move from the old Administration Building on the grounds of the Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport to a new facility in Chanhassen. The brand new building located in an industrial park off of Audubon Road was electronically wired in a way that could better handle the computer technology the office used for day to day operations. In addition the property around the building was large enough to accomodate all of the new weather observing equipment including the WSR-88D Radar and a weather balloon shelter (shown in the photo above).
Until the Chanhassen facility opened in 1995, weather balloons were launched twice daily from the National Weather Service office at the St. Cloud Regional Airport. The St. Cloud office closed shortly after the Chanhassen site become operational. As a result of this closure, weather balloon observation duties in addition to the remaining St. Cloud staff transferred to the Chanhassen office.
Launching a Weather Balloon at Chanhassen office (NWS photo)
This office consolidation signified the end of an era for the National Weather Service. Before the modernization of the National Weather Service took place in the 1990s, most states had one "super-sized" weather office that was responsible for issuing forecasts. The Minneapolis airport office served as the state forecast office for Minnesota. Smaller "satellite" weather offices were spread throughout each state and were responsible for handling local weather observations, data requests, and weather radio broadcasts.
After the modernization was complete, the small satellite offices were closed in favor of creating a large weather office roughly 125 miles apart across the country. These regional offices each received a powerful Doppler Radar in addition to the latest in computer technology. These offices create forecasts, issue weather warnings, and collect weather observations for their area of responsibility. The office in Chanhassen is a part of this regional weather office structure. Click here to see a map of regional weather offices nationwide.
Although National Weather Service staff and technology have moved to the suburbs, the official weather observation site for the Twin Cities remains at the Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport to maintain the climatological record. However, daily weather observations are also taken at the Chanhassen facility. The comparison of data from both sites has helped to quantify temperature differences related to the urban heat island effect.
Since moving into the Chanhassen office, advances in computer technology have changed the way forecasts are made and how weather information is transmitted. The last difax machine was turned off the day the Weather Service left the airport office in 1995. The 1970s era Weather Service computer system called AFOS (Automation of Field Operations and Services) was replaced by a Linux-based system called AWIPS (Advanced Weather Information Processing System) in 1999. This new system has revolutionized the way forecasts are prepared (the computer "types" the forecast using data from graphics drawn by meteorologists). To learn more about day to day operations at the Chanhassen facility, visit our online virtual tour.
Left: AFOS Workstation at the airport office. Right: AWIPS Workstation at the Chanhassen office. (NWS photos)
The internet has also revolutionized the way weather forecasts and warnings are distributed. Gone are the days of postcard delivered forecasts but in its place a plethera of detailed weather data is available free to anyone who has access to a computer. As the years go by additional improvements in weather forecasting technology will occur and the National Weather Service will again "grow" with the times. It's an exciting time to be a meteorologist and to work for NOAA's National Weather Service!