The National Weather Service (NWS) has entered a new era in the production and dissemination of weather information and service to the nation. No longer are textual forecasts the primary medium of dissemination, but a digital database of official forecasts will be available to partners and customers by the end of 2003.

The Interactive Forecast Preparation System (IFPS) is the means through which the forecasts are produced at Weather Forecast Offices (WFOs). Rather than typing forecasts, forecasters graphically prepare grids of sensible weather elements, such as surface temperature and probability of precipitation. These grids from the WFOs are then mosaicked on a central server into a National Digital Forecast Database (NDFD), and this NDFD is provided to all who desire it.

In the new forecasting paradigm, the National Centers for Environmental Prediction (NCEP) are playing a much larger role. In particular, the Hydrometeorological Prediction Center (HPC) collaborates with WFOs, and together HPC and the WFOs agree on the atmosphere's most likely evolution for the next several days before the grids are prepared. The NDFD will open up unparalleled possibilities for commercial entities to distribute value-added products that are based on official NWS forecasts.

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Meteorological Development Laboratory, Office of Science and Technology, National Weather Service, NOAA, Silver Spring, Maryland