19 June 2015

Senate Wants to Take NWS Back To The Future

Posted by Dan Satterfield

noaa_nws_forecast-office_sterling_0A proposal in the U.S. Senate to realign the National Weather Service, with all forecasts coming from 6 regional centers got plenty of attention this week, and most of the reaction was rather negative.

First a little NWS history lesson:In the 1950- 1980’s the NWS had two types of offices, NWSFO and NWS Offices. The NWSFO’s were the forecast offices and usually the smaller offices were mainly responsible for local warnings based on radar. The modernization program that started in the late 1980’s closed the smaller offices, and now there are 122 NWSFO’s around the country. We also have the Tropical Prediction Center and the Storm Prediction Center, along with the National Centers for Environmental Prediction (formerly the Nat. Climate Data Center) along with the National Centers for Env. Prediction outside of Washington, which houses several other centers.

Jason Samenow at the Washington Post wrote two very good pieces about this in the last few days. The first was about the proposal, and the second was about the reaction from private sector broadcast meteorologists. I am quoted along with several friends, and to be clear, I agree with EVERY one of the comments. I agree with Bob Ryan that we should not be afraid of the future, and that change can be good and is necessary. We also certainly need to find some money to catch up with Europe/Japan in on orbit satellite technology and computer modelling, but in many ways it seems that this is a return to pre- modernization with local warning offices and a larger field office. 

With climate change and a growing population, we need to have the best weather service in the world, and the partnership between broadcast meteorologists and their local forecast offices is an example of a partnership between govt. and private industry that works amazingly well.

We mess that up at our peril.