Weather Services in 2025

Framework for Future Strategies

As a framework for the evolution of weather services in the next quarter century, the Panel on the Road Map for the Future National Weather Service developed a vision of weather services and supporting technologies. This vision is not intended to be a prediction but is a reasonable scenario for future weather services. The outlook is optimistic and depends on significant advances in scientific understanding and in observational and computational technologies. But with a strong commitment by the National Weather Service (NWS), the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), the U.S. Department of Commerce, Congress, and the public, the vision presented below could be realized.

A Vision of the Future

In 2025, the basic components of the weather observing, forecasting, and warning process are similar to those of the late twentieth century—observations, analyses, prediction by numerical models, interpretation by humans, and delivery to the public and a variety of users with specialized needs through the media and private weather service companies. These components are so advanced compared to their predecessors, however, that the weather products and services are immensely more valuable to users.

Abundance of Data

Since the early days of meteorology, weather forecasters have sought more and better data. Even with the advent of weather satellites and other advanced remote and in situ sensors during the last half of the twentieth century, incomplete data coverage of the Earth and insufficiently accurate data were significant sources of errors in qualitative and quantitative weather forecasts at the end of the century.

In 2025, the data problem for weather prediction has been substantially solved. Geostationary satellites provide high resolution (500 meters horizontal and 1 minute temporal) imagery in visible, infrared, and "water vapor" wavelengths on a nearly global basis. Diverse rapid scanning Doppler weather radars provide high resolution data on wind fields and the types and amounts of cloud water and precipitation.

The geostationary satellites also contribute to high-resolution vertical profiles of atmospheric water vapor and temperatures. They are assisted by a constellation of low Earth orbiting (LEO) satellites of the "GPS/MET" type (global positioning system and meteorological satellites). Each day, this constellation produces more than 100,000 accurate profiles of atmospheric variables in all weather, extending from the surface of the Earth to an altitude of 60 km. Low power lasers (developed in the first decade of the new century) carried on LEO satellites provide accurate measurements of global wind fields. The combination of geostationary and LEO satellite systems yields global analyses of wind, temperature, and water vapor pressures with accuracies better than 2 meters per second, 0.2 kelvins, and 0.25 millibars, respectively. Satellites observe cloud-to-cloud and cloud-to-ground lightning anywhere on Earth. No thunderstorm goes undetected.

Automated surface observing systems continuously record and transmit meteorological, hydrologic, and chemical data for the air over land surfaces. The basic meteorological and chemical parameters required for numerical weather prediction (NWP) models, including models that can predict "chemical weather," are supplemented by observations of precipitation type, rate, and amount, cloud cover, and visibility. Satellites measure soil moisture and vegetation characteristics four times a day to provide land-surface data for the models.

For less than $200 (in 1998 dollars), any home or office in 2025 can be equipped with an accurate, automatic, atmospheric observing system. These systems transmit data on meteorological conditions (temperature, atmospheric pressure, water vapor pressure, winds, and precipitation) and chemical trace constituents (e.g., ozone, ozone precursors,



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--> Weather Services in 2025 Framework for Future Strategies As a framework for the evolution of weather services in the next quarter century, the Panel on the Road Map for the Future National Weather Service developed a vision of weather services and supporting technologies. This vision is not intended to be a prediction but is a reasonable scenario for future weather services. The outlook is optimistic and depends on significant advances in scientific understanding and in observational and computational technologies. But with a strong commitment by the National Weather Service (NWS), the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), the U.S. Department of Commerce, Congress, and the public, the vision presented below could be realized. A Vision of the Future In 2025, the basic components of the weather observing, forecasting, and warning process are similar to those of the late twentieth century—observations, analyses, prediction by numerical models, interpretation by humans, and delivery to the public and a variety of users with specialized needs through the media and private weather service companies. These components are so advanced compared to their predecessors, however, that the weather products and services are immensely more valuable to users. Abundance of Data Since the early days of meteorology, weather forecasters have sought more and better data. Even with the advent of weather satellites and other advanced remote and in situ sensors during the last half of the twentieth century, incomplete data coverage of the Earth and insufficiently accurate data were significant sources of errors in qualitative and quantitative weather forecasts at the end of the century. In 2025, the data problem for weather prediction has been substantially solved. Geostationary satellites provide high resolution (500 meters horizontal and 1 minute temporal) imagery in visible, infrared, and "water vapor" wavelengths on a nearly global basis. Diverse rapid scanning Doppler weather radars provide high resolution data on wind fields and the types and amounts of cloud water and precipitation. The geostationary satellites also contribute to high-resolution vertical profiles of atmospheric water vapor and temperatures. They are assisted by a constellation of low Earth orbiting (LEO) satellites of the "GPS/MET" type (global positioning system and meteorological satellites). Each day, this constellation produces more than 100,000 accurate profiles of atmospheric variables in all weather, extending from the surface of the Earth to an altitude of 60 km. Low power lasers (developed in the first decade of the new century) carried on LEO satellites provide accurate measurements of global wind fields. The combination of geostationary and LEO satellite systems yields global analyses of wind, temperature, and water vapor pressures with accuracies better than 2 meters per second, 0.2 kelvins, and 0.25 millibars, respectively. Satellites observe cloud-to-cloud and cloud-to-ground lightning anywhere on Earth. No thunderstorm goes undetected. Automated surface observing systems continuously record and transmit meteorological, hydrologic, and chemical data for the air over land surfaces. The basic meteorological and chemical parameters required for numerical weather prediction (NWP) models, including models that can predict "chemical weather," are supplemented by observations of precipitation type, rate, and amount, cloud cover, and visibility. Satellites measure soil moisture and vegetation characteristics four times a day to provide land-surface data for the models. For less than $200 (in 1998 dollars), any home or office in 2025 can be equipped with an accurate, automatic, atmospheric observing system. These systems transmit data on meteorological conditions (temperature, atmospheric pressure, water vapor pressure, winds, and precipitation) and chemical trace constituents (e.g., ozone, ozone precursors,

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--> sulfur dioxide, carbon monoxide) to the National Centers for Environmental Prediction (NCEP). In 2025, one out of every hundred homes and offices has one of these systems. Augmented by similar state and local networks, the national surface network provides meteorological and chemical surface observations of unprecedented quality and density. Thousands of softball players, golfers, and participants in other outdoor sports in Atlanta are warned of dangerous electrical storms an hour before the first lightning strikes. Ground-based global positioning system (GPS) receiver stations provide the data to map the three-dimensional water vapor field for the atmosphere within 100 km (horizontal distance) of each station. Ground-based Doppler radar wind profilers at these stations, scanning horizontally and vertically, generate continuous vertical profiles of the three-dimensional wind over the same atmospheric volume. Over the oceans, drifting and moored buoys, as well as ships of opportunity, carry instruments that measure surface air pressure, temperature, and water vapor pressure. Beneath them, remote-transmitting sensors measure ocean temperature, salinity, and current velocity at several levels, down to 4 km below the ocean surface. The exact location and depth of each instrument are included with these data. Surface wind observations are combined with boundary layer predictions from high-resolution global NWP models to determine surface winds accurately. During the morning rush hour on December 15, 2025, drivers on Interstate 5 in the Sacramento Valley are warned automatically by their vehicle weather alarm systems (standard equipment on every car since 2010) that dense fog is present three miles up the road. They gradually slow down, averting a massive pileup where the highway disappears inside the fog bank. Most commercial aircraft are equipped with sensors to measure winds, temperature, humidity, trace chemical species, and aerosols. These data are communicated to users through a global communications network. "Smart" analysis and visualization software systems combine data from satellites, radars, and other observing systems to provide a composite view of the cloud, precipitation, and water vapor structure from a three-dimensional perspective in five-minute snapshots or movie images. Uses of Weather Data Timely, accurate, and complete data on weather, climate, and air quality are available in 2025 at a reasonable cost to anyone at any place and at any time, including people in all countries, through a global information network. The global array of observing systems described above transmits data instantly, without restrictions and free of charge, to international weather centers around the world and to anyone else who chooses to connect to the global network. Emergency managers in the Midwest agree to move 1,000 snow plows from Illinois, Indiana, and Ohio to northern Mississippi just in time for the arrival of Mississippi's worst snowstorm in 100 years. At the international centers, the data are used in two distinct but related ways. The first is the production of analyses of the present and recent past structure of the atmosphere and oceans. These analyses include four-dimensional (space and time) gridded digital meteorological and chemical data, as well as graphical depictions of cloud and precipitation systems, tropical and extratropical cyclones, thunderstorms, heavy rainfalls and snowfalls, icing, turbulence, electrical storms, air pollution, surface winds, surface water conditions, and other significant weather and chemical phenomena. Similarly, four-dimensional data fields depict the recent past and future evolution of the atmosphere for user-specified locations anywhere in the world. The information and associated derived images are used by the general public and by commercial, nonprofit, and governmental entities to improve the quality of life, avoid hazardous environmental conditions, and conserve economic, water, and energy resources. These highly accurate weather data are combined with other environmental data, such as hydrologic data, to produce forecast information of direct benefit to specific users. Accurate and quantitative forecasts of soil moisture, lake and river levels, and runoff are made two weeks in advance. Energy resources are shifted from one region of the country to another in most months of the year, based on the next month's outlook for temperature, humidity, wind, precipitation, and cloud cover. Major users of weather information go to "weather planetariums," rooms with projection domes for realistic depictions of past and future weather for a particular location, which can be specified for most places on Earth. The projections can show clouds, precipitation, fog, wind, and their effects on nearby landmarks. Policy makers, urban planners, emergency managers, businesses, and other parties with

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--> particular interests in the weather use these weather domes for a variety of purposes. In major cities, weather facilities are open to the public 24 hours a day, free of charge. Besides the planetariums, small personal visualization devices, worn by the users, are available at a reasonable cost. These "smart weather goggles" allow the wearer to view past and future weather in three dimensions at any place and time and from any viewing angle merely by facing in the desired direction. Every 10 minutes, a nonstop New World Airlines flight from Chicago to Sydney adjusts its heading and altitude automatically, based on the current global weather analysis, to avoid dangerous weather and take advantage of the most favorable winds. Meanwhile, the analysis is updated continuously through assimilation of new data and short-range forecasts. The second major way that the international data centers of 2025 use global observational data is for high-resolution global NWP models. New observations are assimilated into the models throughout the day. Meteorological dependence on synoptic observation times (e.g., 0000 UTC and 1200 UTC) has become obsolete, and data pour into the NWP centers continuously. More than a billion quantitative pieces of information about global atmospheric structure, from the surface through the stratosphere, arrive every hour. Through the assimilation process, these observations, combined with improved physical parameterizations in the models, provide a nearly perfect and complete representation, at any time of day, of the atmospheric and upper ocean structure on horizontal scales greater than 100 km. These analyses no longer require radiosonde or other balloon observations. On May 10, 2025, the tenth anniversary of the last weather-related aircraft fatality in the United States passes without notice. Global models with 1 km horizontal and 100 m vertical resolution are run for 30 days into the future in 10 centers around the world, and the results are used in a variety of deterministic and probabilistic forecast applications. For example, every six hours the runs are collected and grouped to form an ensemble of 200 forecasts. Hundreds of thousands of commuters in San Francisco leave their umbrellas and rain gear at home because the approaching rain is guaranteed not to arrive before 7 p.m. that evening. The observational errors so common in NWP forecasts during the pioneer decades of the twentieth century have been virtually eliminated. Model predictions of the next three days' weather are nearly perfect; they are constrained only by the limits of predictability in chaotic systems. Predictions in the five to seven day time frame are about as accurate as two to three day forecasts were in 2000. On May 15, 2025, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention issues an alert, based on the past month's temperature, precipitation, and wind speed and on present and forecast hydrologic conditions, for a major hatching of mosquitoes along the Gulf Coast during the next week. Scattered, recent reports of St. Louis encephalitis in the region indicate an increased probability that this disease could spread rapidly. Probabilistic Forecasts The ensemble of forecasts run by the international weather centers yields estimates of the variances, or uncertainties, in the NWP forecasts, as well as expected values for weather conditions. Thus, users have an indication of the reliability of a given forecast. For example, seven-day predictions of surface pressure, temperature, winds, and precipitation include estimates of the uncertainty in the predicted conditions. Users can view the most likely scenario, with a measure of how likely it is, and a range of extreme scenarios, each with its own measure of likelihood. Maps of forecast variables are color-coded to indicate the probability of the prediction. On Monday morning, January 21, 2025, an ensemble of more than a thousand forecasts from NWP model runs during the past two days shows a greater than 70 percent chance of a paralyzing East Coast blizzard during the coming weekend. Airlines announce schedule changes, including some cancellations and alternative flights, in response to the forecasts and make plans to divert airplanes away from the East Coast by Friday afternoon. The probabilistic forecasts are also used to assess the likelihood that certain high-impact events will occur during a certain time period. These events include both severe weather and ordinarily benign but sometimes high-impact events, such as freezing or thawing conditions, sunshine, cloud cover, air stagnation, or any amount of precipitation. The planners of activities that would be extremely sensitive to one of these events—such as crop spraying, sensitive

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--> phases of major construction projects, and planting crops—use these forecasts to eliminate the risk from an unlikely but potentially catastrophic weather event. Chemical Weather Forecasts Because of the importance of air quality to human health and well-being, operational air-quality modeling is used in 2025 to provide detailed forecasts of the trace chemicals in the atmosphere that affect humans directly or indirectly. Rather than being derived from separate atmospheric chemistry or air quality models, these forecasts can be derived from special versions of the operational global NWP models, which include representations of detailed chemical processes. The daily ensemble forecasting conducted jointly by the international centers provides quantitative probabilistic forecasts for atmospheric chemical constituents, as well as meteorological conditions. Farmers in California and Oregon spend a billion dollars spraying a highly effective, environmentally benign but extremely water-sensitive chemical over a two-day period in April 2025, based on the forecast of "no chance" (less than a 0.1 percent probability) of any precipitation during that period. Weather forecasts include information on ozone and other oxidants; ozone precursors, including volatile organic compounds; carbon monoxide; nitrogen oxides; sulfur dioxide and sulfates; aerosols; and other important chemical species. Predictions are also made for other chemical species that affect human or natural ecosystems, such as nitrate and sulfate deposition (acid rain), local visibility, and ultraviolet indices. The models calculate photolytic activity in relation to meteorological parameters that affect photochemical reactions, such as cloudiness and solar elevation angle. Based on the latest chemical weather forecasts, power companies in the Midwest shift to burning high-sulfur coal for three days. The global chemical weather models predict large-scale and regional-scale trace chemical constituents in the atmosphere, including stratospheric and lower-tropospheric ozone, wet and dry acid deposition, aerosol distributions, and related chemical processes. On much finer scales, models covering a few hundred square kilometers at a resolution of 1 to 10 m capture the effects of point sources of pollutants and produce short-term forecasts of air quality for cities and urban areas to warn the public of dangerous levels of air pollution. Reliable air quality predictions also depend on the atmospheric inventories for all significant natural and anthropogenic chemical emissions of interest. Inventories of chemical emissions are obtained from a national network of real-time emission monitors. Observations of atmospheric chemicals for initializing chemical weather models are obtained from sensors on board satellites (e.g., to measure stratospheric ozone) and commercial aircraft and from the national network of in-situ surface measurement stations. These data are assimilated into the global models in the same way as traditional meteorological observations. Energy system managers and government officials use chemical weather forecasts to avoid dangerously high levels of pollutants or take advantage of the atmosphere's enormous dispersal and cleansing powers under appropriate conditions. The global chemical weather predictions include forecasts of both the amount and chemical quality of precipitation. Concentrations of trace nitrogen species that contribute to the decline of sensitive ecosystems are also monitored. Climate Forecasts Fifty-year outlooks of changing climate and environmental conditions, such as water supplies, lake and sea levels, permafrost, monthly temperatures and precipitation, and frequency of extreme weather events, are factored into the design and construction of all major infrastructure components, including bridges, highways, major buildings, airports, and harbor facilities. Once a week, "climate" versions of the global NWP models are run out for two years, again in ensemble mode. These model runs use somewhat lower horizontal and vertical resolution, but they incorporate all available atmospheric and ocean data for the past month into a quality-checked "super" data set. The resulting climate forecasts contain components representing interactions of atmosphere, ocean, ice, and land surfaces. The atmospheric component includes interactive parameters for chemical weather. The forecasts, which are expressed in probabilistic form, include not only estimates of variations in temperature and precipitation from seasonal norms but also frequency and intensity of extratropical and tropical cyclones, thunderstorms, and other weather and climate phenomena, by region and by month, for the next two years. In May 2025, farmers in Iowa plant relatively low yield but highly drought-resistant corn, based on the three-month precipitation outlook from the National Climate Center. In the past 10 years, these outlooks have been correct 80 percent of the time.

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--> Nowcasts and Warnings The global NWP models in 2025 predict local atmospheric conditions conducive to the formation of severe storms (including thunderstorms and tornadoes, tropical cyclones, and winter storms). People affected by these storms typically receive at least two to three days' notice via outlooks, forecasts, and warnings that have been continually refined and updated as the event approaches. On April 3, 2025, a mother in Arkansas is awakened at 3 am. by her home ICE (information, communication, and entertainment) system alarm, which provides three-dimensional, virtual wraparound viewing. A "weather warning" window on the center screen displays a written message that a tornado is likely within a half-mile of her home in the next hour. Another window shows a map of the local area. Her house is at the center of the map, and familiar landmarks within 10 miles form the map background. Patterns on the map represent precipitation and the speed and direction of winds. The display shows a tornado on the ground four miles southwest of her home. Its past track, current direction, and forecast motion are clearly depicted in striking colors. An audio message summarizes the situation and urges her and her family to take immediate cover, specifying the best location in her home for shelter. As the probability of a severe weather event during the next 12 hours reaches an action level, specialized ultra-high resolution models begin to run in real time. These models, which have horizontal and vertical resolutions of 10 m, typically cover regions of about 1,000 km2 (roughly the size of a major urban area). They contain advanced physical parameterizations for cloud and precipitation water types (e.g., liquid water, supercooled water, snow, graupel, or hail) and are initialized with radar and satellite data. Although they are similar in concept to the primitive cloud and storm models of the 1990s, they include more complete and accurate physics, cover much larger areas, and are routinely updated through the assimilation of four-dimensional data. Because of the detailed, microscale data (including clear-air data) on the atmosphere available in 2025, these ultra-high-resolution models can predict the onset and severity of convective storms very accurately. NWP models produce explicit forecasts of storm structures as well as probabilistic forecasts of precipitation types and amounts, wind speed and directions (including gusts), tornadoes, and electrical activity. These predictions are processed and communicated to users in a variety of ways, including text, audio, or visual products. They also provide input to hydrologic models of individual streams, rivers, lakes, and basins for a variety of water management, environmental monitoring, and emergency warning purposes. On September 3, 2025, the coastal zone from Miami to Fort Lauderdale is efficiently evacuated 36 hours before a Category 5 hurricane strikes Miami Beach. The hurricane causes extensive property damage but no loss of life. Forecasts of Space Weather and Climate By 2025, predicting space weather has matured into a cost-effective warning service for the electric power industry and an important design driver for power grids and communications and navigation systems. The Energy Conservation Center, which is operated by a consortium of power companies, was established at the beginning of the twenty-first century during the sunspot maximum that occurred about the same time that the energy industry was deregulated. The center's principal mission is to adjust the generation sources and distribution of electric power in the Northern Hemisphere grids to minimize fuel costs, conserve energy, and meet pollution constraints. February 21, 2025, is the twenty-second anniversary (two sunspot cycles) of the last major power blackout, which paralyzed the United States east of the Mississippi River from Virginia and Kentucky north. Cities were without power for two weeks or more, rural areas for nearly a month. The economic losses were estimated in the hundreds of billions of dollars. A quarter of the country was declared a disaster area, the largest ever. Despite massive relief efforts, thousands died. Congress pressed for the development of space weather services to prevent a repetition. By comparison, the Hydro-Quebec blackout in 1989 (3 sunspot cycles ago) had been a costly nuisance accepted by the public in good humor, with full recovery of the power system in two weeks. When the Energy Conservation Center was first established, it also warned operators of wireless systems of impending solar events that could black out communications and upset navigation systems. These problems were solved by adding components to the systems that are not perturbed by ionospheric irregularities. Space weather forecasts in 2025 are based on satellite and ground-based remotely sensed observations that are assimilated into models. Optical observations of the solar disk and

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--> corona, made with Sun-tracking satellite telescopes, measure the source of the solar wind and its variations (sunspot number and coronal mass ejections). For large gusts from the Sun's surface, these observations provide warnings, several days in advance, of possible consequences on Earth. Satellites in a gravitationally stable position between the Sun and the Earth measure the particle densities and waves in the solar wind as it passes them on the way to the Earth. Reports from these satellites provide an hour of warning time before a major solar wind fluctuation causes geomagnetic storms in the Earth's ionosphere. The Energy Conservation Center announces in July 2025 that its quality assurance program has eliminated small surges in the electric power delivered to customers. These surges were causing up to $25 billion per year in damage to the sensitive computer and electronic equipment that has proliferated during the information age. Gusts of solar wind produce beautiful auroras but also generate strong electric currents that previously devastated power grids and land communication systems, as well as radio communications and navigation (GPS) signals that travel through the ionosphere. Powerful diagnostic radars, together with radio occultation soundings from LEO satellites of electron density in the ionosphere, follow the propagation of electric currents around the globe. Cost of Weather and Climate Services to Taxpayers The total cost to taxpayers for the governmental part of the national weather information network in 2025 is a smaller fraction of the gross domestic product than it has been at any time since the major "modernization" of the NWS in the 1980s and 1990s (Chapman, 1992). Despite the near doubling of gross domestic product (in constant dollars), the cost per person in 2025 is no more than it was in 1998.