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A Second National Weather Service Office in Indianapolis?

 Map of CWSU locations
Map of CWSU Locations

Have you ever seen the 1970’s movie “Close Encounters of the Third Kind”?

One of the first scenes in the movie was filmed at the ARTCC in Palmdale, CA (although it was labeled as the Indianapolis Center). This particular movie scene is a good example of what it’s like working inside of an ARTCC during a high stress situation. Although the meteorologists at the CWSU have never dealt with UFO’s, they do constantly strive to provide the most accurate and dependable weather information possible to FAA controllers and management, both in-house and off-site, contributing to the safe and most efficient use of the National Airspace System.

The ZID CWSU is staffed by four National Weather Service meteorologists, comprised of one manager and three operational forecasters. The area of forecast responsibility is several times larger than the average NWS Forecast Office, comprising large portions of Indiana, Ohio, Kentucky and West Virginia, along with smaller portions of Illinois, Tennessee and Virginia. The hours of the ZID CWSU operations are from 5:30 am to 9:30 pm every day of the year. ZID CWSU meteorologists provide formal weather briefings to FAA supervisors and senior management within the ARTCC for the day and evening shifts (at 7 am and 3 pm). The weather conditions forecast by ZID CWSU meteorologists are those that are very important to the safe flow and operation of the ZID ARTCC air traffic along with the safety of the flying public. These conditions include in-flight icing, turbulence, thunderstorms, low clouds/fog and various precipitation hazards at the major airports inside the ZID airspace.

Verbal weather briefings are given to individual controllers at the ARTCC and major tower control facilities around the ZID airspace as conditions warrant, as well as to ARTCC facility equipment technicians when severe weather/lightning conditions are forecast on-site. Two types of written products are also provided by the CWSU meteorologists. The Center Weather Advisory (CWA) is a short-term (up to 2 hour) warning of hazardous weather conditions provided to all aviation interests, including private pilots, Air Traffic Control towers, Flight Service Stations, and commercial airlines. Thus, a CWA is similar to, but more tailored to a specialized audience, than the severe thunderstorm warnings issued by National Weather Service offices.

The second written product produced by CWSU meteorologists, the Meteorological Impact Statement (MIS), is a 4 to 48 hour planning forecast of hazardous aviation weather conditions expected to impact the ZID airspace. The MIS is the CWSU equivalent to the Hazardous Weather Outlook.

For more information on the Center Weather Service Unit in Indianapolis, go to http://www.crh.noaa.gov/crh/cwsu/index.php?site=zid

For more information on Aviation Weather, go to http://www.aviationweather.gov/

-Casey Crosbie, Meteorologist, Indianapolis CWSU

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