We Need the Weatherman to Know Which Way the Wind Blows

BY ON March 14, 2018

snow storm

Recently, I was one of many residents in a state that was hit by the latest nor’easter. A thick blanket of snow, accompanied by swirling winds, touched down and made it know Mother Nature is still in charge. The following day, all was calm and the sun was shining.

Several friends, who are teachers, were frantically searching for the latest bit of updated information on the storm (along with everyone else). They were looking for hints about if they would be expected to show up for school on the day of the projected snowfall.

People like to make jokes about meteorologists, but in a time of climate change and extreme weather events, their work is no laughing matter.

Unfortunately, many Americans fall short on even basic science literacy. Beyond listening to the weather report, they lack understanding about the difference between climate and weather.

The Difference Between Weather and Climate:

NASA describes the distinction as “a measure of time.”

  • Weather: Conditions of the atmosphere within a short-time basis.
  • Climate: The average of weather over time and space.

Why the National Weather Service is Important

Back in the fall of 2017, The Washington Post outlined the challenges facing the National Weather Service (NWS) — from unfilled vacancies to staffing problems.

Now, the Trump administration has released its FY2019 budget asking for cuts not only from the EPA, but to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) and the National Weather Service as well. (The National Weather Service is an agency of the federal government; part of NOAA and a branch of the Department of Commerce.) 

Considering that Trump is exceedingly concerned about the state of America’s bottom line, someone on his dwindling staff needs to advise him that the National Weather Service is tasked with delivering climate advisories and forecasts “for the protection of life and property and the enhancement of the national economy.

The data culled from their work is available not only to other agencies of the government (like the Department of Defense), but to the global public as well.

Last year was one of the most expensive years for the United States in terms of losses resulting from weather disasters. $16 billion to be exact.

At a time when droughts, superstorms, wildfires, and floods are elevating in frequency, the country can’t afford to see a roll back in the work of the NWS, which is exactly $3 per day. Considering what it gives the nation, it’s a pretty good deal.

Currently, the NWS is working toward the goal of a “Weather-Ready Nation.” This objective would reach beyond the target of solely delivering an accurate forecast. Rather, it sees its purpose as a “first line of defense” before extreme weather strikes.

The Trump FY2019 budget would eliminate $5 million from the NOAA “next-generation weather model.” This would impede the progress of turning “advanced modeling techniques into forecasts.” The agency is working to upgrade forecasting capabilities from a thirty-day window to a sixteen-day window. Presently, computer modeling, data from satellites and advances in forecasting instruments are rapidly being upgraded and perfected.

The NWS originated in 1870. It serves as “the official governmental authority for issuing notifications about life-threatening events.” It has 122 offices, with 9 national centers throughout the country. It collects approximately 76 billion observations and issues 1.5 million forecasts and 50,000 warnings. These range from threats to the areas of aviation and marine concerns to fires and hurricanes.

So why is Trump considering cutting the NWS by 8 percent (about $75 million), with the elimination of 355 agency jobs and 248 forecasters positions?

It is particularly confusing because in 2017, Trump signed the Weather Research and Forecasting Innovation Act, which is in direct conflict with these new proposed cuts.

Add it to the crazy list. Better yet, let your legislators know that you believe the National Weather Service is of utmost importance to you, your family, and your community.





TOPICS: Climate Change, Heat and Extreme Weather, Politics