By Monica Traphagan
During inversion season, a variety of agencies work to keep the public informed about the changing conditions. One such agency is the local National Weather Service forecast office. The National Weather Service is the part of the federal government that provides weather forecasts along with warnings of hazardous weather in order to protect the life and property of all Americans. There are 122 National Weather Service forecast offices that provide weather information for all 50 states as well as Puerto Rico and Guam. Our office in Salt Lake City forecasts for the western two-thirds of Utah while the Grand Junction, Colorado office handles the forecasts for the eastern third of the state.
National Weather Service offices create gridded forecasts of temperature, wind, cloud cover, the chance of precipitation, and other weather elements out seven days. These forecasts can be found on weather.gov, where you can type in your location or click on it on a map to get the forecast for your area. We also create more specialized forecasts for our customers and partners. For the aviation community, we make more detailed 24-hour forecasts for ten airports across Utah and southwest Wyoming that are used by pilots and airlines. We make spot weather forecasts on demand for wildfires, prescribed burns, search and rescue needs, and large outdoor events. During the summer, we create twice daily planning forecasts for our fire weather partners.
Our responsibilities, however, don’t end with forecasting. If hazardous weather such as severe thunderstorms, flash floods, or winter storms approach, we issue watches, warnings, and advisories to help inform the public of the threats and also provide preparedness information ahead of events, giving people the tools to stay safe when threatening weather strikes. We also post about the ever-changing weather conditions on our Twitter and Facebook pages. Quality weather forecasts are not possible without ground truth observations, so we also maintain a network of observation stations, some automated and some with observations taken by volunteers.
While snowstorms capture a lot of attention during the winter season, inversion events have a major impact on weather conditions as well. To help keep the public safe and informed about such events, we monitor the weather for periods of prolonged high pressure and help get the word out in our forecasts and on social media if we find that inversion conditions are forecast to occur. When we see a change in the weather pattern with the potential to end an inversion event, such as a cold front, we make sure the forecast reflects that as well and make sure the public knows about the improving weather conditions. Our forecasts include the inversion’s anticipated impacts on visibility and temperatures in the valley. However, we do not forecast air quality at our office, so we rely on the expertise of the Utah DEQ. Collaboration with other agencies helps us make the best possible forecast and get the right message out to the public to keep everyone safe and prepared.
If you would like more information about our office, visit our website at weather.gov/slc. Our Facebook page is facebook.com/NWSSaltLakeCity and we are @NWSSaltLakeCity on Twitter.
I’m a National Weather Service meteorologist and a 2005 graduate of Texas A&M University. I live in Salt Lake City with my husband and daughter. When I’m not attempting to forecast the weather, I enjoy playing the drums, watching baseball and basketball, and cooking.