So, what in the world is a CWSU?
Center Weather Service Unit
CWSUs came to life in 1978 in part due to recommendations by the NTSB after the crash of Southern Airways Flight 242 near Atlanta. As a result the FAA and NWS embedded small weather units inside each Air Route Traffic Control Center (ARTCC), 21 units in all (including Alaska) in an effort to enhance critical weather dissemination within the air traffic system. Every day a team of 84 NWS meteorologists deployed at these 21 sites works hand in glove with FAA Air Traffic decision-makers in an effort to promote the safest, most efficient National Airspace System (NAS) possible.
Operating between the hours of 5 am and 930 pm (when most of the air traffic is flying), these meteorologists provide FAA managers with a variety of products and services designed to help FAA traffic managers make the crucial decisions they face daily. Some of these services include "Standup briefings", where CWSU forecasters speak to an assembled group of traffic managers and explain the current and forecast weather conditions; ad-hoc briefings at any time to warn of hazardous weather or expected changes in the forecast; and briefings to system support specialists regarding the best time and day for taking down equipment for preventative maintenance or even warnings about lightning activity.
CWSU forecasters also issue routine products such as the Center Weather Advisory (CWA), a short term nowcast of hazardous conditions, and Meteorological Impact Statements (MIS), which detail weather conditions expected to impact the safe and efficient flow of traffic. During the months of March through October they participate in the Collaborative Convective Forecast Product (CCFP), a nationwide thunderstorm graphic used by air traffic system planners in FAA's Washington, DC System Command Center (ATCSCC). Center meteorologists also assist with in-flight emergencies involving weather and many are involved with forwarding Pilot Reports (PIREPs) from controllers out to the rest of the aviation world. Additionally, many CWSUs are now producing internet graphics and briefings to assist off-site facilities in making weather-related decisions, such as Towers and TRACONs. CWSU meteorologists also provide training to FAA staff and are sometimes consulted in the preparation of after-action reports and post-mortems.
Memphis CWSU Hours of Operation:
16 hours per day, 365 days per year
5:30 AM to 9:30 PM