IWN Operations Center

Iowa Weather Network Operations Center


Accompassing nearly 90 square feet of space, the new Iowa Weather Network Operations Center is the first of it’s kind in size and magnitude for organizations of our level. Following major renovations and construction from July 2015 through February 2016, we are now able to provide state-of-the-art severe weather live coverage from this center, with much more computing power, efficiency, and capabilities than ever before.

Two full workstations in the center provide for simultaneous tag team weather coverage, with one person managing the live production, while another manages social media, websites, and the other tools that we are provided with. The possibilities are endless, however, with duties easily interchangeable. Both workstations are able to switch between our two high-performance machines and two low-powered desktops – with over 100 GB of RAM, four top-of-the-line Intel Core i7 processors, 4 TB of storage, 16 GB of graphics RAM, and other high-end specifications. These workstations are meshed over 14 high definition displays – with one wall of monitors 10 feet long by 5 feet high.

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Lead Forecaster Henry Luker overlooks the 14 monitors within the Iowa Weather Network Operations Center, showcasing a variety of data from model data, to our graphics package, social media tools, and more.

The bigger story is the amount of data that is fed to our site:

  • NWS Products: Two internet satellite data streams, the Emergency Managers Weather Information Network and the NOAA WeatherWire, both ingest all National Weather Service textual products (weather alerts, forecasts, statements, summaries, discussions, etc) into our servers for processing at high speeds and eventually transmit over the proper Iowa Weather Network channels – either Facebook, Twitter, email, internal chatroom, online text and map services, text messages, or others. We are also able to view data on screen and on a map in real-time as it comes in – allowing us to provide this information to the public as soon as possible.
  • Radar: This program has access to a plethora of information – varying from radar from the NEXRAD network of sites across the country, to satellite data, observations, severe weather tools, surface analysis, model data, mesoanalysis, NWS forecasts, tropical tools, and more. This data is being fed to the second from the wire – giving you true “First Warning” and first look analysis at storms – important during tornado outbreak live coverage where accurate and timely radar information is critical to save lives. An alternative radar program and source is also available, which includes two-dimensional cross-sections and three-dimensional storm analysis. This adds to our powerful suite as we have now, and also adds redundancy in the case that our primary site goes down.
  • Observational Data: On one monitor, we have every single National Weather Service or Federal Aviation Administration weather station in the state – displaying the full suite of information as it comes in.
  • Models:Â A full suite of model data is also available at our fingertips, including the GFS, NAM, RAP, HRRR, ECMWF, GEM, IWN-WRF, HRW, and more.
  • Graphics:Â Our custom built graphics system is constructed on a platform of over 100 graphics -Â many auto-updating – in an effort to cut down on time wasted building elements, and keeping the focus on the forecast itself.
  • Chaser Streams:Â Chaser streams from all five of our chasers, Dan Gottschalk, Kelly Lange, Charles Dean, Dan Herrstrom, and Colton Porter are available to view at once – or in multi-panel modes – to keep an eye on things in the field, while also continuing to work on the main task at hand. These streams are easily added into our live production, giving viewers multiple different angles, from our radar network, to chasers in the field, to stationary skycams.
  • DOT Cameras: The Iowa Department of Transportation manages traffic cameras in all of the statewide metropolitan areas, plus several more in more-rural areas. This includes Ames (19), Boone (5), Council Bluffs (49), Cedar Rapids (52), Des Moines (72), Iowa City (28), Nevada (5), Newton (12), the Quad Cities (21), Sioux City (29), and Waterloo (27). This does not include all of the other rural cameras that are available. Many of these cameras are high resolution and give an incredibly helpful look at the conditions of the roads (in the winter) and a look at the skyline (during severe weather).

All of this streams into our network servers and is stringed into our production suite. Within this suite, we are able to switch to different “scenes” – whether it would be a full screen look at the radar, graphics system, chaser streams, or DOT cameras, or potentially a split-screen look at things, the capabilities are endless. Any of our four computers are able to view the ingested data – allowing for complete split-end weather coverage. For example, one forecaster is able to manage the production and see his data needs on one monitor, while the primary arc forecaster is able to do complete & focused reporting during live coverage. This enables us to provide you with the most accurate, reliable, convenient, local, and simple coverage in the state – as we have done since 2008.