NWS says partial circuit failure caused network outage

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A six-hour outage took key weather information updates offline for about six hours earlier this week, amid outbreak of severe weather.

The National Weather Service attributed a six-hour weather data outage on April 2 to an "intermittent hardware failure" of a circuit in its College Park, Maryland data center, according to a statement shared with Nextgov/FCW.

The Advanced Weather Interactive Processing System, which combines telecommunications services and an interactive user interface, is designed to switch operations to a backup system in the event of a failure, but because the circuit failure was intermittent, the automated switch to the backup system did not occur, the agency said.

A team of vendor and NWS specialists manually switched operations to the backup system in Boulder, Colorado once they figured out the root cause of the outage. NWS has since reconfigured the system to prevent an intermittent failure from taking weather services offline for such a long time.

Currently NWS weather dissemination systems have an uptime goal of 97%, the agency said, noting that allows for a total of 11 days downtime per year. The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, the parent agency of NWS, is seeking an $11.4 million boost for system maintenance and support that it hopes will result in 99% uptime. The agency is also looking to migrate AWIPS to the cloud to eliminate the need for shifting operations between data centers. 

"Transforming AWIPS to a cloud framework will give forecasters efficient, secure remote access to the system, therefore allowing them to be more nimble and flexible in providing  [impact-based decision support services] in embedded partner locations," the agency said in its budget request.