Weather radio

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A Gorman-Redlich CRW-S weather radio

A weather radio service is a broadcast service that airs weather reports. When the radio is on and tuned to the weather band, it airs both normal and emergency weather information. If the radio is off or tuned to another band, it automatically turns on and goes to the weather band for emergency weather information.

Weather radio services may also broadcast non-weather related emergency information, such as in the event of a natural disaster, an AMBER alert or a terrorist attack. They generally broadcast in a preallocated very high frequency (VHF) range using FM. Usually a dedicated weather radio receiver or radio scanner is needed for listening, although in some locations a weather radio broadcast may be retransmitted on a conventional AM or FM frequency (as well as HD Radio substations), some terrestrial television stations broadcasting in MTS stereo transmit weather radio on their second audio program (SAP) channel as well as on one of its digital subchannels (where news and weather are applicable), on local public, educational, and government access (PEG) cable TV channels or during Emergency Alert System activations for tornado warnings primarily on cable systems.

Two types of weather radio receivers; the common Midland home weather radio (model WR-100) to the right is often the most popular and known unit sold in the United States, while the orange Oregon Scientific model on the left is portable and water-resistant for outdoor use.

Weather radios come with several features that make them very helpful in case of an emergency. Some models use crank power, in addition to mains electricity and batteries in case of a power outage. Some models have an embedded flashlight, and can double as a cellphone charger. Some also serve as a more general emergency radio.

Weather radios are widely sold in home electronics stores and even many supermarkets and drugstores in the United States and Canada, with the supermarkets and drugstores selling them more in the southern and midwestern U.S., which is in Tornado Alley. The price of a consumer model weather radio varies depending on the model and its extra features.

Most receivers from the 2000s and the 2010s, and even some from the mid-1990s, are able to listen silently for weather alerts via the SAME protocol and then sound an alarm to warn the listener of the oncoming weather or event. Additionally, many weather radio vendors also include a visual element such as colored warning LEDs or strobe lights which attach via an accessory port to give a warning to those who are hearing impaired.

Governmental weather radio services[edit]

Frequency Old name New name
162.400 MHz WX 2 WX 1
162.425 MHz WX 4 WX 2
162.450 MHz WX 5 WX 3
162.475 MHz WX 3 WX 4
162.500 MHz WX 6 WX 5
162.525 MHz WX 7 WX 6
162.550 MHz WX 1 WX 7

The United States, Canada and Bermuda operate their government weather radio stations on the same band.

Notable weatheradio services include:

The original numbering was from the order in which the frequencies were assigned, with 162.55 at first the only frequency, then 162.4 and 162.475 added later to prevent RF interference. The others mainly came into use in the 1990s in less-populated rural, areas and as fill-in broadcast translators relaying an existing station or sending a separate, more localized broadcast into remote or mountainous areas, or those areas with reception trouble. The newer numbering is based on the order of the frequency numbers themselves.

Canadian broadcasts are also transmitted on travelers' information stations on FM and AM, especially near national parks.

Bermuda has only one station dedicated purely for weather, on 162.550 MHz from Hamilton, now operated by the Bermuda Weather Service with tropical weather forecasts from NOAA. It has a second station, however, for marine conditions and forecasts, ZBR (operated by the Bermuda Maritime Operations Centre), at 162.400 MHz.[1][2]

All stations transmit a 1050 Hz tone immediately before issuing a watch or warning, and this serves to activate the alert feature on many older radios. Except for Bermuda, all U.S. and later Canadian stations transmit WRSAME codes a few seconds before the 1050 Hz tone that allow more advanced receivers to only listen for certain warnings that carry a specific code for the local area, and often to have an option to only sound the alarm for serious warnings by default, and other alerts at the user's discretion (for example, a flash flood watch could be ignored by a person living on the top of a hill, while a tornado warning is an immediate emergency in all cases). However, disabling the alarm will still show a scroll on the display.[citation needed]

Commercial weather radio services[edit]

The weather radio band is reserved for governmental services. However, most AM and FM radio stations provide some sort of private weather forecasting, either through relaying public-domain National Weather Service forecasts, partnering with a meteorologist from a local television station (or using a meteorologist hired by the station, common when a radio station is a sister station of their TV counterpart or has a news and forecast-sharing agreement), affiliating with a commercial weather service company, or (in the most brazen cases) pirating a commercial service's public forecasts without payment or permission. (The first option is not available, or at least legal, in Canada, where Environment Canada's forecasts are under crown copyright.) Accuweather (through United Stations) and The Weather Channel (through Dial Global's NBC Radio Network) both operate large national weather radio networks through AM and FM stations.

History of Weather Radio[edit]

The National Weather Service began its first weather Broadcast from Los Angeles on 162.400 in 1967. The observations were the Meteorologists on Duty recording it to tape, then broadcasting it over the air. This practice continued into the 1990s when the automated "Paul" and "Harry" made their debuts, and into the early 2000s, when the current automated voices used today were introduced.[3] The "Paul" and "Harry" voices and human voices are still used occasionally for weekly tests of the Specific Area Message Encoding and 1050 Hz tone systems, station IDs, and in the event of system failure or computer upgrades. They will also be used on some stations for updates on the time and radio frequency.


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  3. ^ "Voices Used on NOAA Weather Radio". National Weather Service. Retrieved 3 July 2012.