Sequester and Weather Forecasting

I am receiving questions via email, Facebook, and Twitter about the possible effect of the sequester on weather forecasting and storm warnings.

I don’t think it is wise to speculate as to how the NWS will be affected since, as the sequester continues, we are in uncharted territory.  So, allow me, in general terms, to outline some priorities.

I believe the nation’s meteorological core infrastructure must be preserved (and, sooner rather than later, enhanced). By core infrastructure I am talking weather satellites, weather balloon launches, radars, computer models and all of the rest that creates the underpinnings for storm warnings that protect against imminent threats to life and property of the general public. Without that infrastructure no one can make weather forecasts or create storm warnings.
The infrastructure must be strengthened. Previously, on this blog, I’ve talked about the issues with America’s weather satellite program, but it goes deeper than that. Since Hurricane Sandy, the fact that our nation is now #7 in computer power devoted to weather forecasting has been in both the scientific and general news. America has the most violent weather on earth. There is no alternative to strengthening the infrastructure if we want the American weather enterprise, including the government and the American weather industry, to be able to generate accurate forecasts and storm warnings that save lives, protect property, and enhance economic development and create jobs. The issues with communicating the threats during Sandy and the Joplin tornado demonstrate there is still work to do.

As NOAA, Congress, and the Administration ponder these issues, I recommend that the core infrastructure be funded as the prime requirement that underpins all else. Without the infrastructure, the American weather enterprise (federal meteorologists, broadcasters, private sector meteorologists) will never reach its full potential. 


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