Early Out Retirements At The National Weather Service

By: Dr. Jeff Masters , 5:53 PM GMT on February 27, 2006

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The National Weather Service plans to offer early retirement to up to 1000 of its 4700 employees in order to cut costs. The plan, called the Voluntary
Early Out Retirement Authority (VERA) Implementation Plan
, is preliminary, and still needs approval from the Office of Personnel Management. Under the plan, 13 of the National Hurricane Center's 42 employees would be offered early retirement, and would potentially be replaced by lower-paid entry level meteorologists, in order to cut costs.

I contacted Dan Sobien, vice president of the National Weather Service Employees Organization, to ask his opinion of the plan. While he supported the idea of offering early retirement to NWS workers, he expressed concern about offering the package to operational forecasters that issue warnings. These critical people could potentially be replaced by interns straight out of college. In particular, he pointed to the part of the proposal that states:

"NWS management will determine if the vacant position needs to be filled"

Sobien remarked, "My objection is using the word "if" when talking about operational positions". He added, "Even when they agree to fill a position, they are stating that 1) they can hold it open indefinitely, and 2) they can replace a lead forecaster or journeyman forecaster with an intern."

According to the Washington Post, Greg Romano, a Weather Service spokesman, predicted that only 50 NWS employees would take the early retirement. The Post article quoted Sen. Bill Nelson (D-Fla.)--a member of the Senate Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee, which oversees the Weather Service--as saying: "They better be very careful not to cut critical jobs. I think it is wrongheaded budgetary planning, and we're going to have to try to reverse it." Nelson was particularly upset that the NWS was "unbelievably" offering early-outs to 13 of the 42 employees at the Hurricane Center
after he had pushed Congress to add four positions to their staff to reduce the use of military personnel during hurricane season. I share these concerns, and hope the NWS amends the plans so that senior operational forecasters at the NHC and local NWS offices are offered early outs in a more intelligent fashion.

My next blog will be on Wednesday, concerning the International Environmental Data Rescue Organization. I will be travelling the for the next week, and will not be able to respond to user queries during that time.

Jeff Masters

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124. hpbear
12:53 AM GMT on March 06, 2006
with the debate now back to operations of meteorology, like forecasting, i just have to wonder a few things....

who is going to hire all the older forecasters who aren't old enough for those pensions? how will that affect any forecaster coming out of college facing 15-20k in student loans and not able to get a job?
when will the private industry step up to the plate and bring the balance between available forecasters and available jobs to a balance?
when will the higher ups in colleges/universities, the AMS (which I am a member of), the NWAS, and others, finally step up and do a full census of the field and see when the balance between all meteorologists and all employers directly or indirectly in meteorolgy will ever be reached?

if I am pushing something, it's a proposal I made to the AMS CWCE (Commission on the Weather and Climate Enterprise) a few weeks back (to be voted on at their next meeting, so no hurry) to take such a survey and maybe use that info to determine how the industry has to go?

It's an idea that actually has gotten some good feedback on by several people on all sides of the field. now if it only can be done, then all the questions on the fate of Voulntary Early Retirement and other workforce issues could have a solid base to work from.

just my two cents.....
Member Since: May 26, 2005 Posts: 0 Comments: 1
123. F5
10:02 PM GMT on March 01, 2006
Inyo,

We absolutely should work on making it better. However, one option for making it better is outsourcing, or privatizing.

Now in reference to what you said about hurricane warnings, that's not quite the way it would work of course. Assuming a private company did run weather forecasts, they aren't going to make their money selling it to individuals. They would make their money selling it to other companies, including news stations, or provide it to consumers a la TWC. They may have a subscription process for individuals who want more details, but it's not like they would provide the data only to individuals who would pay. That wouldn't make any business sense at all. Now, where most TV stations, radio stations, etc., get their data from NWS, they would instead get it from TWC, or Accuweather, or whoever, and they would still have nightly/hourly/whatever weather reports. To assume otherwise isn't really the proper way to view the potentialities.
122. Inyo
7:04 PM GMT on March 01, 2006
Governmental agencies are massive, bloated bureaucracies that are in no way nearly as efficient as private companies. If private companies ran the way the federal government did, they would be out of business in short order.

hmm.. not my observation at all... from my observation businesses work for a lot of things but for things everyone needs, they just don't work. the fact is that 'big business' will never expand its efforts beyond where is profitable in the short term... for instance they would not provide hurricane warnings to poor people. So do the poor deserve to just die then, beacuse they can't pay for the warnings?

Anyway i just don't agree with what you are saying at all and its probably just a difference of opinion... if the goverment is so 'bloated' we should work on making it better, in my opinion, not discard it for wal-mart
Member Since: September 3, 2002 Posts: 42 Comments: 896
121. gippgig
6:24 PM GMT on March 01, 2006
If governments weren't issuing weather forecasts the insurance companies would be.
Member Since: December 5, 2005 Posts: 0 Comments: 70
120. ForecasterColby
5:59 PM GMT on March 01, 2006
Hey Chandler wobble person:

Link

Check your sources.
119. jeffB
5:48 PM GMT on March 01, 2006
This is what companies do every single day. They cut budgets, lay people off, cut back on travel, reduce expenses, etc.

And if they cut back on essential travel, reduce training and education spending, lay off their best people, and discontinue services that their customers rely upon, they don't stay in business for long.

When the NWS doesn't have funds to send personnel to make presentations at a hurricane conference, something is radically, pathetically wrong.
Member Since: July 8, 2005 Posts: 0 Comments: 42
117. F5
1:07 PM GMT on March 01, 2006
nwseo1,

Welcome to the real world. This is what companies do every single day. They cut budgets, lay people off, cut back on travel, reduce expenses, etc.

Just because it's the government doesn't mean you should just be able to spend whatever you want whenever you want.
116. nwseo1
12:40 PM GMT on March 01, 2006
take absolute total offense to bdkennedy1 remark "What kind of Mercedes does Dan Sobien drive?"

I know Dan Sobien, our NWSEO president, and although he works hard for the welfare of the NWS employees, he also works hard on keeping Draconian cuts from occurring in the weather service budget that will affect the safety of Americans. Some gratitude should be given to the NWSEO for uncountable issues such as allowing NWS forecasts and WSR 88D images on the Internet for your pleasure.

Dan Sobien is also a forecaster just like I am who just happens to be able to sacrifice all his spare time for the NWSEO. On a forecaster's salary, I can't afford a Mercedes. And for him to get any extra money on the side is against Federal Law. We are a Federal Union. The rules are different for us. bdkennedy1's stereo-type is typical for the mentality of anti-union individuals.

As far as the FY 2007 budget increase for the NWS. It appears like a 5% increase but most of that increase is ear-marked for individual programs. Tsunami program, more forecasters at the NHC etc. We will still have a budget shortfall and will be worse due to real inflation. Our local office office and supply and travel budget dropped from $30K to $10K; a cut of two thirds. The Florida Governor's Hurricane convention is in Fort Lauderdale this year. Our office was asked to give a presentation at it. Normally the boss would go but he asked me to go instead because my mom lives there and I can stay there saving money for our travel budget. In the wake of Katrina how pathetic is this? What are we now some 3rd rate country that can't afford to put governement officials up at even the Budgetel Motel for an important lifesaving conference?
114. Skyepony (Mod)
6:08 AM GMT on March 01, 2006
F5~ The bill would not make private industry pay for NOAA & NASA type weather info gathering~ We would still do that. But all that info gathered would be handed free to 1 or 2 big weather companys & we would pay or watch commercials to see what those companys chose to show us. The NWS budget is used in this calculation because they diseminate the weather info. The only cost cutting this bill would give.

Boaters, farmers, stock players & many more were outraged (more so than the weather geeks in numbers) all over the country. In Central FL it's hard to get a stormy forcast on peak theme park days since Accuweather is owned by Disney. I couldn't imagine if that was the only forecast available.

~nite ya'll 56.8F
Member Since: August 10, 2005 Posts: 223 Comments: 39357
113. F5
6:00 AM GMT on March 01, 2006
Inyo,

Gotta love your (mis)characterization of business. Of course, business can only be big and corrupt right. Never mind business is the engine that makes this country run. Please. Governmental agencies are massive, bloated bureaucracies that are in no way nearly as efficient as private companies. If private companies ran the way the federal government did, they would be out of business in short order.

There may be some that are corrupt, and there may be some that are inefficient, but they are the exception, not the norm.
112. F5
5:57 AM GMT on March 01, 2006
Skyepony,

The NWS budget is just one part of the NOAA budget, which is well over several billion dollars. Also, it's highly likely that a lot of the costs, especially from an infrastructure perspective, are NOT included specifically in the NWS budget. Someone had to pay for all the satellites, someone is paying for all the computer hardware, telephony, internet, etc. If you could really isolate it, I'd say the cost is a lot higher than $4.47/taxpayer.

Of course, you also have to consider that while there are a great number of people who use this information, the vast majority of Americans don't know and don't care, so in effect, you are asking them to subsidize your hobby.
111. Skyepony (Mod)
5:36 AM GMT on March 01, 2006
I had a big AH HA about the AMO today~ maybe... I ran across where Chandler's Wobble (the continuous wobble of the earth's axis) had stopped & just restarted again a few weeks ago after 6 weeks of no moving. Now it is out of it's regular pattern putting us in an anomilous event~ This rarely happens. Bought freaked when i saw the historical dates...(1932-38 and 1958-1964) as these are peak periods in the AMO cycle. This corralation i have made on my own, the link only discusses how these periods are active for volcanos & earthquakes.
Member Since: August 10, 2005 Posts: 223 Comments: 39357
110. Skyepony (Mod)
5:25 AM GMT on March 01, 2006
Dr Masters did a blog on this once, here's a chart out of that blog (the NOAA one hasn't been updated since '95). It's the pattern of the The Atlantic Multidecadal Oscillation (AMO). It's been a regular shift in current patterns, in the n atlantic, that affects the SST in a somewhat predictable time frame.

Member Since: August 10, 2005 Posts: 223 Comments: 39357
107. Skyepony (Mod)
5:10 AM GMT on March 01, 2006
These were 2 entrys left in the comments concerning the cost we pay as taxpayers for our weather info & the info we get about other places around the world.

Guygee left~

I find the "save money issue" laughable.
NWS budget: $617 million
US taxpayers: 138 million
$ per taxpayer: $4.47"

$4.47 per year from each taxpayer, which includes the cost of all the free information on the internet, plus providing "corporate welfare" in the form of information subsidies for all of the TV stations, radio stations, and private weather companies who also get the information for free.

Sounds like a good deal to me!

hoochbear left~

about 295 million people,
$618 million, $2.10 per person.

Also we are in agreements around the world, many nations depend apon our satilites & info, to know if the big one is coming. All these Carina pics Have been US or France that i've seen...
Member Since: August 10, 2005 Posts: 223 Comments: 39357
106. Inyo
5:10 AM GMT on March 01, 2006
Skyepony, you mention that the dust bowl occurred at a time of active Atlantic hurricanes. Interestingly, the dust bowl also coincided with heavy rains in Southern California. I guess last year we had all three of these again. It's hard to say if they are linked but perhaps a drier winter in California will be a sign of less Atlantic Hurricanes.

on the other hand, it looks like it could be a very wet few weeks in California now, so maybe the dry trend has ended.
Member Since: September 3, 2002 Posts: 42 Comments: 896
105. Inyo
5:01 AM GMT on March 01, 2006
Posted By: ForecasterColby at 2:39 AM GMT on March 01, 2006.
Oh, and, why should the government provide free forecasts? Other than life-threatening situations, I see no reason for them to spend billions telling you its 76 tomorrow.


what? i can't imagine a single advantage to privatizing weather forecasts. Few people would be able to afford models.. most private companies would be feeding from a government feeding trough and making profit at the public's expense (in my opinion and from my experience, almost ALL government 'outsourcing' consists of this as it is a drastic loss in efficiency with a corresponding loss of quality.) Obviously, some things, like the local bakery or whatever, should not be government owned but when it comes to things like weather sattelites, hurricane hunter aircraft, and huge suypercomputers, it is always going to be a government sponsored affair.. and i'd rather pay one person (via taxes) to run the models than pay a company to pay another person to run the models plus everyone else involved taking a cut. I have worked both on the contractor and on the government side of things and so far i havent seen any advantage to this type of outsourcing.

i don't think we spend 1000 dollars a year on forecasting, that number is way off. the average american probably spends way less(what are there, a few hundred million people here, maybe half of them pay taxes?)

just look at california's electricity problems if you want to see another example. it got deregulated and went down the toilet.

it seems to me that we have two choices: big inefficient government, or big inefficient corrupt corporations. Personally, i'd take the government as a lesser of two evils.

besides, the quality of accuweather, etc, is in my opinion, abysmal. the highest quality in my opinion comes from the NWS and from the small 'amateur' people who interpret it.. not accuweather or twc
Member Since: September 3, 2002 Posts: 42 Comments: 896
102. Skyepony (Mod)
4:43 AM GMT on March 01, 2006
Inyo thanks for that burn correction.

Colby ~ go to my first ever blog. We searched & hashed that bill as well as other things of similiar nature. Dr Masters did a blog on the whole proposed policy change (seperate from the bill) that would stop NWS & etc from duplicating the weather info that the private sector could provide. Final results looked okay with NWS, not treading on TV & radio's markets by not requiring NWS forecast being used unless the weather is extreme. The public has free access through other mediums as well as the same types of access as the private sector, when it comes to the multible wonders that NWS has to offer.

Basically only 138 people commented (shame shame, after all our hard work & Dr Masters urgings). Though I noticed wunderground was mentioned more than once in the comments:) 128 against (yeah), from the public. 7 for, including a long letter from the weather channel. 1 completly off topic. & 2 against because it wasn't clearly stated well enough that the government would hand over all the weather info to privite industry & stop forecasting all together ~ 1 was accuweather & the other was National Council of Meteroligists (who by the way recomends NOAA not only stop forecasting but to help privite industry find the most profitable ways to package info for private industry to sell back to us).
Member Since: August 10, 2005 Posts: 223 Comments: 39357
100. Skyepony (Mod)
4:33 AM GMT on March 01, 2006
Critics charge that S.786 is an attempt to silence NWS. "If enacted, S.786 would prohibit the National Weather Service from providing any service, including marine, public and aviation forecasts (other than severe weather warnings) to either the public, the media, academia, or state and local emergency management officials if private sector weather companies are or could provide a similar service for a fee," Richard Hirn, general counsel for the National Weather Service Employees Organization, wrote in a letter to Sen. Jim DeMint, R-S.C.



Jeff Masters, director of meteorology for The Weather Underground Inc., a small online weather information site, doesn't think it's that far-fetched. "The bill is designed to be private-industry friendly," he says. "I think it was written as a favor for large weather providers." He believes that the bill would eliminate the forecast data his company currently gets from the NWS, forcing his company to purchase that information from a large commercial source such as AccuWeather.

David Moran, assistant professor of law at Wayne State University, says the bill is ambiguous and contradictory. "I believe the bill is poorly drafted because, after reading it several times, I'm not at all clear as to exactly what information the NWS would be prohibited from releasing to the public," he writes via E-mail. "First, it does not define some key terms. ... Second, [certain provisions] appear to be flatly contradictory. How is the NWS supposed to issue to the public all of its data (not just severe weather information) without thereby providing a service that would compete with private entities?"

With the exception of the Postal Service, the government typically steers away from competing with the private sector. "But what is happening here is people are wanting to make an industry out of government assets," says Richard Griffin, a partner at Texas law firm Jackson Walker, who contends that taxpayer-funded weather data should be equally available to everyone.
link
I thought ya'll liked this website:) This bill is written for accuweather.

I ran across somewhere once where someone from NOAA commented with some wonderful analogy about to understand weather better & improve storm forecasting you just can't concentrate on the storms. The cost of the disemimation is nothing compared to the cost of gathering it. If this bill like this of the privacy policy bit last summer passes, ya'll say goodbye to your little weather habit cause the satalite info, hurricane hunters & there dropnode data, as well as, most likely this site would be gone. You'd be looking at Accuweather after a commercial to see your forecast & that's about it.
Member Since: August 10, 2005 Posts: 223 Comments: 39357
98. ForecasterColby
4:15 AM GMT on March 01, 2006
Real interesting area of moisture in the NW carib:

GULF OF MEXICO...
A BROAD AMPLIFIED MID-UPPER RIDGE EXTENDS FROM THE EPAC INTO THE
CENTRAL U.S. STRONG SUBSIDENCE LIES OVER MEXICO AND MUCH OF THE
GULF EXCEPT FOR AN AREA OF MID-UPPER LEVEL CLOUDINESS FROM
25N-30N E OF 93W. THIS MOISTURE IS ASSOCIATED WITH AN UPPER
LEVEL LOW NEAR 26N93W. AT THE SFC...A 1024 MB HIGH IS LOCATED
OVER CENTRAL FLORIDA SUPPLYING MOSTLY FAIR WEATHER OVER THE
STATE AND MUCH OF THE GULF. SURFACE S/SE RETURN FLOW COVERS THE
AREA AND HAS WARMED THE TEMPS TODAY. ANOTHER AREA OF ORGANIZED
CLOUDS IS LOCATED IN BETWEEN CUBA AND THE YUCATAN PENINSULA
WHICH IS LIKELY ASSOCIATED WITH A DEVELOPING SURFACE TROUGH.

GLOBAL MODELS SUGGEST FAIR WEATHER TO CONTINUE ACROSS THE
CENTRAL AND WESTERN GULF THROUGH MUCH OF THE WEEK. SOME
UNSETTLED WEATHER IS LIKELY ACROSS THE NW CARIBBEAN AND EASTERN
GULF TONIGHT AND TOMORROW ASSOCIATED WITH THE SFC TROUGH. A WEAK
COLD FRONT MAY SKIRT THE N GULF COAST LATE THU/EARLY FRI BEFORE
MOVING EASTWARD INTO THE ATLANTIC.

Trough by itself doesn't mean anything...but there's some real low shear moving towards it. I don't like this one bit.
97. ForecasterColby
4:09 AM GMT on March 01, 2006
I think I'll do a blog on that tomorrow...hrm.
96. ForecasterColby
4:08 AM GMT on March 01, 2006
TornadoTy - a private satellite won't be there unless there is a reason for it to be. Perhaps they'll charge for viewing. But WE ALREADY ARE. We (or most of us, I don't do so directly yet) pay taxes, and NOAA/NHC/etc take billions a year to run - so each american adult is paying $1000+ a year for it!
94. tornadoty
3:20 AM GMT on March 01, 2006
The reason that the government should spend billions of dollars to tell you that it will be 76F tomorrow (God I wish it would be) is because that would just be the start of limitations. Then, they will privatize satellites (you wouldn't have been able to watch a Carina, or probably even know that one exists), radar (good luck trying to find the BWER of a supercell 20 miles away without it), and then, the severe weather info would eventually be cutoff. And if you don't think that this would ever happen, just research what it's like trying to get ANY weather info in Europe (for free, at least). Not that this matters, because there's no support for this, and Santorum looks to be out of office after the election anyways.

Read this
93. F5
2:49 AM GMT on March 01, 2006
ForecasterColby,

Lol, good point. I can think of some good reasons to have NOAA and NSSL, as well as CPC, but basic weather, I have the same questions you do.
92. ForecasterColby
2:42 AM GMT on March 01, 2006
Oh, and, why should the government provide free forecasts? Other than life-threatening situations, I see no reason for them to spend billions telling you its 76 tomorrow.
90. ForecasterColby
2:39 AM GMT on March 01, 2006
Yeah, that's just signal static.
87. ForecasterColby
2:23 AM GMT on March 01, 2006
No, the plane is a) much too small and b) would be in the clouds. It's possible they were just static on the signal, since those were older storms.
85. ForecasterColby
2:11 AM GMT on March 01, 2006
There goes Carina - shear finally got her:

84. ForecasterColby
2:03 AM GMT on March 01, 2006
Buster, could you post them?
83. Inyo
1:20 AM GMT on March 01, 2006
Authorities warned of the possibility of mudslides in parts of the Angeles National Forest northeast of Los Angeles, where as much as 10 inches of rain were expected to fall between Monday night and Tuesday. (this area recently burned)

No major area of the ANF (where i work) hasn't burned in the last 3 or 4 years... the area which burned recently is just southwest of us in the Simi Hills. Even without recent fires, the area is extremely flood prone due to its steep topography and shallow soils. I havent heard of rainfalls over 10 inches up there at any of the recording stations, but some areas definitely got 6-8 inches of rain. I wasnt out in the field today but tomorrow i will see how much runoff occurred.

The storm for friday could dump up to an inch more in the mountains (less in the valleys) but of course after 6 inches of rain, the ground is saturated so even an inch could cause the creeks to rise. There are some indications that another warm wet storm like last night will move in next week.. of course there are also indications that it will go north or not form at all. It will be interesting.. as of right now, if we get about 3 inches in LA, we will be caught up with our average rainfall for this time of year, despite the extremely dry winter. (it was a wet fall, looks like it may be a wet spring). If this occurs, it will be notable as a year of two rainy 'seasons' with a mini summer in between. It is yet to be seen how this will affect the plants.

Also i was digging through old documents today and found one referencing some old cloud seeding operations.. apparently there was cloud seeding going on up there as recently as the early 90s. It has been terminated because of liability (people die all the time in flash floods, with or without cloud seeding, but no one wants to be linked to that) but apparently they still seed in the Sierras and some remote parts of the coast range.. weird stuff
Member Since: September 3, 2002 Posts: 42 Comments: 896
81. ForecasterColby
11:44 PM GMT on February 28, 2006
Now, guilt-freely, look at the 2nd to last image I posted and tell me what the heck is with the eye jump!
80. DenverMark
11:43 PM GMT on February 28, 2006
Unfortunately, not too many 'canes in the Atlantic basin are guilt-free :-(
Member Since: February 11, 2006 Posts: 125 Comments: 6988
79. DenverMark
11:41 PM GMT on February 28, 2006
I like the idea of "guilt-free" hurricanes. Kinda like guilt-free chocolate or (name your favorite snack)!
Member Since: February 11, 2006 Posts: 125 Comments: 6988
78. ForecasterColby
11:36 PM GMT on February 28, 2006
She's baaaaaaaaaaaack:

77. dcw
10:23 PM GMT on February 28, 2006
Well, maybe Carina is only going through an ERC...check this out:

Member Since: August 2, 2001 Posts: 2 Comments: 3
76. socalweathernut
9:42 PM GMT on February 28, 2006
Skyepony,
Orange County, CA has broken clouds with the rain mostly over until a chance on Thursday. We got about 1/4" to 1/2" here. Enjoying the brief change from sun and sun.
Member Since: September 10, 2005 Posts: 0 Comments: 72
75. Skyepony (Mod)
8:22 PM GMT on February 28, 2006
Something on weather balloons
Member Since: August 10, 2005 Posts: 223 Comments: 39357
74. Skyepony (Mod)
7:55 PM GMT on February 28, 2006
& forecasted to weaken...

I'm lovin the Carina pics but...

If an image looks like it is going to be too big for the blog & blow it out, similiar to our current state~ Between the symboles put...

img border=0 src=address width=600 hieght=600

Forgot yeasterday~ weekly ENSO update out
The SST anomilies for last year in the 4 different NINO regions

The week's SST anomilies. The hot stop just west of Central America seems to be cooling again. La Nina is still on...
Member Since: August 10, 2005 Posts: 223 Comments: 39357

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Jeff co-founded the Weather Underground in 1995 while working on his Ph.D. He flew with the NOAA Hurricane Hunters from 1986-1990.

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