National Weather Service forecasts to be banned?

By: Dr. Jeff Masters , 12:58 PM GMT on April 26, 2005

It may soon be illegal for the National Weather Service (NWS) to issue non-severe weather forecasts under the provisions of the National Weather Service Duties Act of 2005, Senate Bill S.786, introduced April 14 by Sen. Rick Santorum, R-Pa. The bill's key provision (Section 2b) states that the National Weather Service cannot provide "a product or service...that is or could be provided by the private sector", with the exception of severe weather forecasts and warnings needed to protect life and property. Secretary of Commerce Carlos Gutierrez is given sole authority on how to interpret what NWS products and services should be restricted. In his comments upon introduction of the bill, Senator Santorum said the bill would boost the private weather industry by reducing unfair competition from the NWS and generate cost savings to the government, remarking, "The beauty of a highly competent private sector is that services that are not inherently involved in public safety and security can be carried out with little or no expenditure of taxpayer dollars."

Why The Weather Underground opposes the National Weather Service Duties Act of 2005
It is unclear from the bill's language whether the NWS would be allowed to continue making its routine public and marine forecasts. This decision would be made by the Secretary of Commerce. I believe the expertise of the NWS forecasters is unmatched anywhere in the world, and throwing away their forecasts would be a shameful waste. Although the private weather industry can and does provide routine public and marine forecasts, the quality of these forecasts is sometimes poor and would likely worsen if the NWS ceased issuing forecasts. When I participated in forecasting contests both as a student and an instructor, I discovered that while it was difficult--but not impossible--to beat the NWS forecast, it was nearly impossible to beat the "consensus" forecast--that is, the average of everyone's forecast. Private weather industry forecasters do their own forecasting, but will usually check their forecast against what the NWS says before sending it out. If the NWS forecast differs considerably, there will frequently be an adjustment made towards the NWS forecast, resulting in a better "consensus" forecast. So, with the proposed legislation, not only would we lose the best forecasts available, but the forecasts from the private weather companies would also worsen. Many sectors of our economy depend upon good forecasts, and passage of the bill might result in a loss of millions of dollars to the economy. Elimination of routine NWS forecasts would result in little cost savings to the government. The 24-hour staffing at NWS offices required to make severe weather forecasts would not change significantly, and these forecasters would need to be working all the time making forecasts in order to fulfill their duty to make severe weather forecasts. If the NWS has to keep their forecasting staff in place, why not continue to let them make their excellent forecasts? Ed Johnson, the weather service's director of strategic planning and policy remarked, "If someone claims that our core mission is just warning the public of hazardous conditions, that's really impossible unless we forecast the weather all the time. You don't just plug in your clock when you want to know what time it is."

Not all private industry would benefit
The Weather Underground, Inc. relies heavily on NWS forecasts and products that would likely be eliminated. Without these products, our company would likely be forced to significantly downsize. Other private weather companies are in the same situation, and smaller TV and radio stations that rely on free NWS forecasts would also suffer. And K-12 schools that rely on the ad-free web site would be forced to eliminate some weather education offerings.The bill primarily benefits those private weather companies with large staffs of forecasters that can make forecasts for the entire country, such as AccuWeather and the Weather Channel. Legislation like this has been pushed for many years by the Commercial Weather Services Association, led by AccuWeather, a company based in Pennsylvania. CWSA and AccuWeather managed to get almost identical bill introduced in the House in 1999.

Too much power is given to the Secretary of Commerce
The decisions on which NWS services and products unfairly compete with private industry are given to one person, the Secretary of Commerce. Leaving one politically-appointed person in charge of this decision-making is unwise. A more fair solution would be to form a committee to make the decisions.

How to oppose The National Weather Service Duties Act of 2005
The National Weather Service Duties Act of 2005 is currently before the Senate Commerce Committee, and will have to make it out of there before the full Senate votes on it. The time to kill this bill is now! If you're interested, you can sign a petition opposing the National Weather Service Duties Act of 2005, or write your Senator if he or she is on the Senate Commerce Committee:

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217. UNThurricane2019
7:15 PM GMT on August 02, 2013
Quoting 180. dprobins:
Very few people appreciate the number of steps that goes into producing one forecast. Privatizing these steps would result in costing the government money to use each of these services in severe cases. The result won't be extra money in my pocket.

Besides, the weather forecasts are wrong nearly 90% of the time. I'd prefer to be provided incorrect forecasts from the government than having to pay extra for inaccurate, shoddy forecasts from TWC or AccuWeather. They all suck!

But you are paying the government to provide inaccurate forecasts from the NWS. It's called taxes.
Member Since: July 8, 2013 Posts: 0 Comments: 106
216. cavaguy20
7:48 PM GMT on May 19, 2005
I, as well think that this bill is the craziest thing I have ever heard! When I was younger, I used to soley rely on TWC, however, when I discovered the NWS, it has been them I trust ever since! They take their forecast down to the heart of every city, and that makes a big difference over other weather companies! I highly doubt this bill will get put into law... I really do.

215. cavaguy20
7:45 PM GMT on May 19, 2005
I, as well think that this bill is the craziest thing I have ever heard! When I was younger, I used to soley rely on TWC, however, when I discovered the NWS, it has been them I trust ever since! They take their forecast down to the heart of every city, and that makes a big difference over other weather companies! I highly doubt this bill will get put into law... I really do.

214. vortex1
3:48 PM GMT on May 17, 2005
Jim- Does the government give you cement for free or do you have to go out and buy it? Same thing with weather, they shouldn't be giving that away either. On another note, let's suppose the government poured concrete sidewalks, driveways and patios. Now you wouldn't be in business very long would you. Even if you did it better, it wouldn't be so easy getting people to pay for something they can get for free even if its someone lesser quality, would it?
213. jimpike
5:28 PM GMT on May 16, 2005
I am a small, independant residential construction contractor. I pour concrete sidewalks, driveways and patios.

This bill could hurt my business if I could not get accurate weather forecasts, or if I had to pay for the information.

I use WeatherUnderground to view radar and to get temperature and humidity forecasts.

I can modify my concrete mix to fit the weather conditions and give my customers a better quality product which will last longer.

I am not a meteorologist, but weather is very important to me.
212. jodec
1:08 AM GMT on May 13, 2005
I think it is a stupid idea to not allow the NWS to continue its great job for weather forecasts and all other products. I am only a weather hobbiest, but frequently access the NWS website for updates. We do have the weather channel here, but I also like to zero into my local Forecast Zone (CTZ008) -- Northern New London County in Connecticut.

I have on 2 occasions submitted storm reports to the NWS Forecast Office in Upton NY. I use this Site to determine whether to cancel events or keep them scheduled when snow storms are on the way.

Interestingly, I have actually had the experience of watching local weather stations (Hartford and New Haven) sometimes forecast certain conditions, yet when I check with the NWS website for my zone, find a different forecast. This has not happened too much, but it has happened. In addition, the NWS updates if local zone forecasts several times per day but I may only watch TV stations' weather at 5pm or perhaps 11pm.. and they tend to focus on Hartford or New Haven and not always mention my town. I can get this detailed forcast for my town by entering the zip code at the NWS Website.

Can you imagine the chaos that can occur is suddenly a Corporate Forecast calls for snow accumulating between 1 and 3 inches, then all of a sudden the storm intensifies into a blizzard ?? Nice.. real nice.

Seems like Lawsuits for Weather Forecasting Malpractice ??? may run rampant in the future. After all, private companies -- no... better yet.. Monopolies have lots of $$$$.... Remember Microsoft?

I say let the NWS continue to do the fantastic job that they have been doing right along, and continue to improve as they have been.

Good luck NWS... You certainly have my support.

Joe D.
211. grampi
6:47 PM GMT on May 05, 2005
I'm starting a new company aimed at taking over the functions of the senators and congressmen. Their only functions will be to make national security decisions during wartime. Anyone interested in joining my company?
210. grampi
2:17 AM GMT on May 05, 2005

I saw the lowballing personally all the time. Most government contractors are ripoff artists.

If the NWS is duplicating a service that was developed by the private sector, then the bill should only forbid the NWS to duplicate only that service. It shouldn't have all functions except for severe weather services stripped away.

Once again, federal agencies should not be subjected to downsizing and the possibility of thousands of their employees losing their jobs simply to create a greater chance of success for private firms. It's not the inharent duty of civil servants to give up their jobs to create private jobs.
209. LarryCosgrove
12:20 AM GMT on May 05, 2005

While I am heartened to see people aware of the political process, and how it relates to weather observation and reporting, I have some friendly advice:

Chill out! This hysteria will NOT help the situation.

The legislation sent to the Senate floor by Mr. Santorum will NOT destroy the NWS, but PERHAPS could limit some of its important duties. The NOAA web pages and possibly some other functions led by local WSFOs and specialized branches may be impacted.

There are two major issues with this bill that need to be addressed. One is the obtuse wording; just what is the Senator trying to say? The second is, there are OTHER PRIVATE WEATHER SERVICES besides Accu-Weather, and they need some legal help to sustain themselves. I firmly believe that we need to see more non-NOAA participation in fields such as severe weather and hurricane/tropical forecasting, but the current structure of data flow limits the non-NWS meteorologist in those pursuits.

The bill needs to be rewritten, plain and simple. But do not be fooled by comments saying that NWS or NOAA agencies are far better than their privately run counterparts. There is no proof of such a statement, and someday firms may be able to prove their skills in some of the toughest corners of weather prediction. IF they get the chance.

Best Regards,
Larry Cosgrove
208. vortex1
11:40 PM GMT on May 04, 2005
Grampi problem number 1: I don't know who does that, but we never have. Infact on the contrary, on our government bids, the government is so slow in awarding the bid, by the time they do we are scrambling like crazy to be able to start on time.
Grampi problem number 2:The NWS is dupicating services. Read my earlier post. We developed a graphical snowfall map and then the NWS duplicated it. Remember, I was not talking about forecasting. That's not the problem.
Grampi problem number 3: The NWS will still be in charge of life or property threatening weather. They will still be issuing warnings, watches, etc. I suggest you read the bill.
207. grampi
6:20 PM GMT on May 04, 2005
I have several points to make in regard to Senator Santorum's proposed bill to limit the services of the NWS. First off, his argument that privatizing many of the services which are currently provided by the NWS will save the tax payers money is complete hogwash. Having been a government employee for over 20 years now, I've had a lot of first hand experience with privatization. This is how it works. When the government decides to contract out a service, they always award the contract to the lowest bidder. Knowing this, contractors purposely lowball their bid to ensure they get the contract. Once the service is underway, the contractor begins a series of budget increases and deadline extentions throughout the course of the contract. When all is said and done, the service/project could've been accomplished in a more timely manner, the job would've been done better, and at a lower cost to tax payers if it would've been accomplished by federal employees, even when taking into consideration the wages and benefits of the those federal employees. There is also no accountability when these services are contracted out.

The next issue I have with this proposed bill is the Senator's claim that the NWS should not be allowed duplicate services that can be provided by the private sector. Whose duplicating who? The NWS was around long before any of these private companies came along, so it seems to me they are duplicating services the NWS has been doing for years. And since when should government agencies that have been providing the tax payers with valuable and accurate services for decades have to downsize in order to allow private companies to flurish?

The third problem I have with this bill is anytime a profit driven organization is in charge of providing the general public information that could mean the difference between life and death, people are going to die. The first sign that it isn't profitable to provide a certain type of service, or to provide service in any given area, the company will reduce or eliminate the service. That's just the nature of a profit driven business and this is why privatizing the weather service won't work.

There's nothing wrong with the system the way it is now. Why fix what ain't broke? My guess is the Senator already knows this, but his bank account is probably being padded by these private weather service companies. Hopefully, the people this bill is being presented to are smart enough to realize just how idiotic it is and they throw it out the door along with the Senator!
206. JohnSheppard
9:07 AM EDT on May 04, 2005
I am still perplexed about why a private company should want to restrice the NWS so that they in turn can generate income.
I've already paid for that information; a private company would need to present it in a much better format for me to want to pay for it.
That all seems totally appropriate. To restrict the NWS so that some private enterprise would be able to charge for that information is not just asking me to pay twice; it's like asking me to pay a toll to use a public road just to inhance the income of the toll booth maker.
How silly!!!
Member Since: August 14, 2001 Posts: 0 Comments: 0
205. vortex1
12:41 PM GMT on May 03, 2005
Well again, I have nothing against the NWS putting out weather forecasts. I welcome the challenge. I am talking about other products they have been doing, such as graphics, etc. Things that began with private companies, such as the item listed in my previous post.
204. Ocala
8:35 PM GMT on May 02, 2005
Vortex1, I can certainly understand your position in reguard to The NWS issuing these products for free. But the fact remains that long before Accuweather, WSI, etc were in bussiness, The NWS was already there. These companies knew going in that they were in competition with a tax payer funded service that distributed these products for free. The only thing they had going for them was that they held the contract to distribute the Nexrad radar data. Now that this contract has expired and this data is available for free, they are feeling the pinch. The Nexrad radar data was a gold mine for these companies because they could chage for it. Now the only thing they can provide are forecasts, which the NWS allready does. Back to my original point. They knew going in what the stakes were. Just my 2 cents.
Member Since: May 7, 2003 Posts: 0 Comments: 30
203. Ocala
8:35 PM GMT on May 02, 2005
Vortex1, I can certainly understand your position in reguard to The NWS issuing these products for free. But the fact remains that long before Accuweather, WSI, etc were in bussiness, The NWS was already there. These companies knew going in that they were in competition with a tax payer funded service that distributed these products for free. The only thing they had going for them was that they held the contract to distribute the Nexrad radar data. Now that this contract has expired and this data is available for free, they are feeling the pinch. The Nexrad radar data was a gold mine for these companies because they could chage for it. Now the only thing they can provide are forecasts, which the NWS allready does. Back to my original point. They knew going in what the stakes were. Just my 2 cents.
Member Since: May 7, 2003 Posts: 0 Comments: 30
202. vortex1
7:15 PM GMT on May 02, 2005
Joseph: Many of our snow plow clients get paid by the inch of snow. But there aren't enough snow accumulation reports to cover all locations, so what we did was develop an accumulation map using contours to estimate how much snow has fallen in one place. So what did the NWS do, they put out a similar map on their website. So it's kind of like stick to forecasting and not offer the other products that private companies can do. If they want to offer forecasts I have no problem with that, it is a challenge to me to put out a better forecast and beat them. But when they start offering other products that goes beyond forecasting and collecting and disseminating observations, that's where I have a problem. I am not talking about competing against a product that is less expensive, I am talking about competing against one that is free. Somebody is getting taxpayer money to put out that product when that money can be used for research or perhaps developing an ASOS station that doesn't report .01 in an hour when there isn't any rain for hundreds of miles. I think you get my point. It is also hard for me to believe that people are for the NWS as much as they are against Accu-Weather. And rightfully so, their ethics have always been questionable in this field.
201. nwseo1
4:46 PM GMT on May 01, 2005
Also I want to thank the people on this blog for their support. It really motivates me to do a gread job at work when I see this kind of enthusiasm for the NWS and encouragement from our customers.


200. nwseo1
4:29 PM GMT on May 01, 2005
It was me Dan the VP, Jack from Atlanta. I've been scouring the blogs (I've read thousands) looking for anyone that supports the bill and found that 99% don't support it. If they do, they either have no idea what the NWS actually does or they are tied to a certain company.

Here it is Sunday (I'm off, today) and I'm trying to support my NWS.

On May 16th, I'll be going to the Florida Department of Emergency Management (FDEM) to work with the state meteorologist in their annual week long hurricane exercise. We're going to simulate the 1950 year when two very wet systems hit Florida with massive flooding. That was the year that broke the Florida State record for most rain in a 24 hour period. In our test we'll have a major river go to record flood causing I-75 to shutdown in the first hurricane then have the second one come in shortly thereafter. That ought to get the EMs in a tizy. It should be fun to watch them try to deal with this evacuation disaster. I'll be supporting them with web graphics on rain observations and forecast as well as river hydrographs. (All pretend of course)

It would be a shame if they lose these great briefing tools, I will provide via the Internet when I support this state agency. I hope this support I give them can't be argued in a court of law if S786 passes.

199. JosephB
2:32 AM GMT on May 01, 2005
TomP, thanks for pointing out the weathermatrix forum. I left my opinion there as well.

Jaybolinn, the good Senator Santorum's party is currently in control of the Legistlative and Executive branches of government, which makes passage of this bill a distinct possibility, even if it is flawed and poorly written.

Vortex1, help me to understand...was your company selling a product that the NWS recently started offering for free? I can see that as being unfair to your company.

However, if your company decided to offer a commercial version of some product that the NWS was already offering for free, and you have difficulty selling it, well, I'm sorry for your difficulty, but that's the way the economy works. Nobody forced your company to develop a prodcut to compete against something that was being offered for free.

And yes, I know very well what it is like to compete against a product that is less expensive...
198. Jaybolinn
2:03 AM GMT on May 01, 2005
I really don't know why you folks are so upset. Clearly, based on the rabid oppposition seen here and elsewhere, there is little support, even within the private meteorological community, for this bill. I think the bill needs to be tweaked and better defined. But even if the bill passed I doubt it would end all NWS forecasting. Clearly, if you read the bill, it is very open to modification and input. A lot of you just sound paranoid. (Probably fell for the "Email's no longer going to be free hoax" a few years back.)

But, admittedly I have reservations about it myself. It seems that there are much more pressing problems than messing with our weather services, which are the best in the world. This and some other recent things would indicate to me that Senator Santorum is in the autumn of his career.
197. TomP
1:10 AM GMT on May 01, 2005

If you can't state what weather company you work for, then I think it's rather disingenuous of you to start comparing its performance to that of the NWS. Fess up, and let people verify your claim.

Frankly, however, your slam on that NWS forecast already removed any respect I might have given your statements by default. Apparently, you think that it's not possible that the probability of rain at some location could actually be 50%. You apparently differ, but I sure wouldn't be proud of working for a company that modified its forecasts in order to give the illusion that they're more meaningful than they actually are.
Member Since: February 16, 2004 Posts: 0 Comments: 0
196. TomP
11:46 PM GMT on April 30, 2005
There's another discussion of this going on over at the WeatherMatrix site, which of course is run by Jesse Ferrell, an AccuWeather employee. It's not shocking that he's also supporting the bill.

I just left my own comments over there.
Member Since: February 16, 2004 Posts: 0 Comments: 0
195. TomP
11:46 PM GMT on April 30, 2005
There's another discussion of this going on over at the WeatherMatrix site, which of course is run by Jesse Ferrell, an AccuWeather employee. It's not shocking that he's also supporting the bill.

I just left my own comments over there.
Member Since: February 16, 2004 Posts: 0 Comments: 0
194. JosephB
11:22 PM GMT on April 30, 2005
I suppose it was just an oversight that the AccuWeather web page article neglected to mention that the legislation also covers the "sensing", or acquisition of data, such that it would be illegal for NOAA and NWS to collect data and distribute data if someone in the private sector was also collecting and distributing data. Kind of hard to release data in real time if you don't have any data to release...
193. Ilgaz
Saat: 11:20 PM GMT Tarih: 30 Nisan 2005
192. Ilgaz
Saat: 11:13 PM GMT Tarih: 30 Nisan 2005

There, all comments verified by that article!. Also, if Wunderground admin is reading all of this, please spare your time to block certain netblocks from reaching this page.

You know what I mean ;)
191. eggo4
10:12 PM GMT on April 30, 2005
True, a free product is not fair competition. But the quality of the NWS product is a known and valued entity. If I had to pay for a service, I'd rather pay the NWS for their product. I haven't been near pleased with what I've seen from other services. What I want to know is: Is it is or is it ain't gonna rain within a 100 nm radius of my locoation 10 days from now; what are both the horizontal and vertical winds going to be (direction and velocity) and what the pressure differential will be over the course of a given radial -- all at various altitudes. I also need the probabilities of icing at various levels and varying locations within that area and at what time of day. NWS gives me that and only request comments of my observations in return
Member Since: May 28, 2004 Posts: 0 Comments: 0
190. Jaybolinn
10:14 PM GMT on April 30, 2005
I would think that the Weather Underground would support this. Does it say anywhere that the technical products issued by the NCEP and the MOS forecast's would no longer be available? I think not. Therefore it would provide the oportunity for a plethora of new ideas and start-up companies. I think the WU has their head in the sand on this. Why is it that we think the government can always do it better? The NWS is slow and out of touch often. I look at this as an oportunity. The WU should too.
189. vortex1
8:57 PM GMT on April 30, 2005
The point I was really trying to make, and it wasn't pro or con for the bill, was Dr. Masters statement that the NWS meteorologists were umatched in the world, thus so much better then those in the private sector. I take a great deal of pride in my work and my coworkers work very hard at doing a great job at a fraction of the pay the NWS guys get and I got carried a way a bit in my resonse. As a side note, since the post, Dr. Masters and myself have had exchanged e-mails a few times and I think he now understands where I am coming from. He was very cordial and willing to listen and I enjoyed our communications. Joseph B, yes competition is great. I don't know what line of business you are in, but try competing against someone offering the same product who is giving it away for free. Your product doesn't just have to be a little better, he has to be a great deal better. A free product is not fair competition. Powder, the point is when a client calls, they don't pay money to hear that it is a 50-50 chance it may or may not rain. They want to hear either it will (60% or better) or it won't (40% or less). Then they make their decision. Hopefully you get it right enough times, so that when you do miss, the client, who understands the inexact science that it is, still has confidence is your predictions and ability. Nobody is going to pay to hear its a 50-50 chance. And as for as your picnic goes, it depends whether you let me come or not:).
188. PowderSpringsWeather
3:13 PM GMT on April 30, 2005
Vortex1 wrote:
"Surely, a service who is "unmatched anywhere in the world" as you stated would be ashamed to put out a forecast like this. At my company, we are forbidden to use this percentage. Clients pay to know if it is going to rain to is it not going to rain"

So I guess basically your forecasts say a fifty-fifty chance of rain everyday. If your company is so good as to pinpoint to the square meter where is or isn't going to rain you guys are amazing. (Yes I know you didn't say those words in your post) but you implied it. If your clients can get a forecast thats says yes or not with a 90 or higher percentage of accuracy you must be able to pinpoint where it is going to rain. 'cause here in Atlanta it may rain down the road a mile or so away and my location never get a drop. Or I may get a half inch of rain at my location and I can drive 3 miles down the road and it will be dry as a bone.

So, can you tell me if it is going to rain tomorrow on my picnic at my house. All I need is a yes or no.
187. Ilgaz
9:24 AM GMT on April 30, 2005
Oh, correction: "I told", not "I let".

Well, as they are a really responsive company, they will at least review it.

btw, sales@accuweather has been replaced by resume@accuweather , when you click the link , it sends mail to there.

Wonder why? ;)

I could do a lot more if I wasn't a foreigner. Its your money, really don't sit silent.
186. Ilgaz
9:21 AM GMT on April 30, 2005
I have let digiturk (, my satellite digital tv platform to switch to another source from Accuweather.

I pay Accuweather already (part of money my subscription) for digital weather channel and I don'T like my money used in dark stuff like that.

Sent pgp signed mail to Accuweather too.

I simply don't care about
185. vintonalan
6:31 AM GMT on April 30, 2005
Well what Mr. Santorum is OBVIOUSLY neglecting is the NWS is part of the federal mandated E.A.S. system. Part of the national, regional, local governments and local radio and television stations all over the USA. As a broadcast television engineer for 19 years, EAS is mandated by the F.C.C. The NWS is one of which is authorized to issue any local/regional watches/warnings to alert people to immediate danger. I'll let you bloggers alert this *diot* to this. He is breaking F.C.C. laws by doing this. I can go on for a long time. But, simply, this *ain't* gonna happen. One more clueless elected official. Go figure.
Member Since: March 16, 2005 Posts: 0 Comments: 0
184. JosephB
4:27 AM GMT on April 30, 2005
A couple of the previous posts are quite interesting...

billkodak appears to be trashing the NWS because they are somehow anti-competitive, even though in reality, it is AccuWeather and friends who seem to be afraid of competing with the NWS, and are thus trying to eliminate it.

On the other hand, vortex1 seems to be trashing the NWS because competition with NWS has driven prices down for his/her company's weather products.

So, is competition good or bad??? I happen to think it is good, and that's why NOAA and NWS should stay just as they are.

For vortex1, perhaps the reason people are only willing to pay a certain amount for your products is because they don't judge your product to be worth more money, relative to the "shameful" NWS products. Our economic system is nasty that way... So we should eliminate the NWS so that people are basically forced to buy your product, a product that they have judged to be not worth the money??? Give us a break!!! Like I said in a previous post, develop a state-of-the art product that is of value to the consuming public, patent/copyright it, and your revenue problems will take care of themselves.

I live and work in a big metropolitan area, while I grew up in rural America, and still have business interests there. I don't want to rehash what I've posted before, but I oppose this bill because based on my experiences, 1) this bill will likely end up costing consumers of weather data more than they will save in taxes, 2) this bill will benefit a few large companies at the expense of the general public, 3) this bill will be devastating to rural America, small businesses, and private individuals, and 4) it just simply isn't necessary.
183. vortex1
1:00 AM GMT on April 30, 2005
Dr. Masters:
Where do you get off saying the NWS forecasts are better then those of private companies. What documentation to you have to support that? Maybe you as a student and as an instructor weren't able to beat the NWS, but the same cannot be send for many in the private sector. Me, unlike yourself, can back in up. My company has over one hundred clients, including about a half dozen in Southeastern Michigan, Thousands and thousands more use other private weather services. So I ask you. If the NWS is better or even anywhere as good, why would people pay for a service they can otherwise get for free? That's all the proof I need! Maybe those clients have no use for a forecast that says, "there is a 50 percent chance of rain tonight."

347 PM EDT FRI APR 29 2005


Surely, a service who is "unmatched anywhere in the world" as you stated would be ashamed to put out a forecast like this. At my company, we are forbidden to use this percentage. Clients pay to know if it is going to rain to is it not going to rain.

I also am unaware where you receive your information that private companies "check" their forecasts against the NWS and "adjust" towards it. Our company, makes it own forecasts, thank you. If anything I will try to move away from the NWS forecast to show clients that they are getting what they pay for, not some company who is usually similar to the NWS. If anybody does look at the NWS forecast, it is probably due to a lack of time. Private companies have had to purposely take on bigger loads to make up for the cost that has been driven down by the free forecasts available. While many clients are willing to pay more for the better forecasts that the private sector provides, because of the free forecasts available there is a limit to what they will pay.
182. billkodak
8:41 PM EDT on April 29, 2005
The same arguments against this bill are used in a different form when anyone discusses allowing competition in education. Despite obvious failure and horrible results, public schools plod on with their status quo protected by union bosses and union controlled politicians.
Member Since: January 20, 2004 Posts: 0 Comments: 0
181. vpnwseo
8:20 PM GMT on April 29, 2005
Hello all, I am Dan Sobien, Vice President of the National Weather Service Employees Organization I want to thank Dr. Masters for bringing this issue to the attention of you all. I am a long time user of the Weather Underground products and quite frankly would be lost without this page.

Most all that has been written in this blog is on the mark. I am particilarly impressed with the post that one of our stewards wrote. It is right on the mark. Kudos to you whoever you are and please contact me.

It is true that this bill would not stop the NWS from producing weather forecasts and warnings. Only from distributing them for free to the American taxpayers. Instead the forecasts would be issued only "through a set of data portals designed for volume access by commercial providers of products or services".

This bill would put an end to the National Weather Service web site and to NOAA Weather Radio at worst. At best this bill is so poorly written that no one knows what it would do.

What seems clear at least to me is that large weather distributor(s) are concerned that smaller firms are now able to get weather from the NWS over the internet for free, instead of paying them for it.

What does this mean for the NWSEO, perhaps 10 jobs are affected by this bill. It cost the NWS approximately one cent (thats right one cent) per American to make this weather data available on the web.

So why am I concerned, like our steward posted above I too was plotting hurricane charts and making my own forecasts when I was 8. If a bill like this was to pass and I was no longer able to create forecasts for boaters, farmers, gardeners etc and instead my work was only used as a pawn to put money in the hands of a couple greedy corporate owners looking for a monopoly, I think I would hang up my hat and look for a new career.

My opposition to this bill is for my own morale and the morale of the people I represent.

As a union representative, I do not have a whole lot of time to forecast porfessionally anymore. But as a weather geek, I still look at the models every morning and go to sites like Weather Underground to get their perspective. Yes I stll have a weather radio also, it came in very handy last hurricane season. If these web sites were no longer available, well I would miss them greatly. As a taxpayer, well quite frankly I would be pissed because I paid for that network of radars, those satellites, raob, models etc.

So if you oppose this bill, which I gather most on this blog do. You need to contact your Senators. This is important - DO NOT contact them by snail mail. Since the anthrax scare, they will not get it, email, fax or call. As a NWSEO official let me warn government employees, do not do this on government time or with government equipment and do not represent yourself as a government official but as a private citizen.

Somewhere in the blog above someone has posted the names and contact information of the important Senators. It is important that you contact your own state Senators but in addition to them contact Senator Santorum himself. This is important because I really do not think this bill has a very good chance passing on its merits, especially with all of you contacting your Senators. But, I fear it getting quietly attached to some other bill that is likely to pass. The Senator is in a close re-election battle and it is important for the him to realize there would be a price to pay for that. Please also contact Sen. Jim DeMint of South Carolina, he is chairman of the subcommittee that will take up this bill. Senator Ted Stevens from Alaska, he is chaiman of the overall Committee on Commerce, Science and Transportation. Senator Daniel Inouye of Hawaii, the ranking minority member. Finally, please also contact Senator Bill Nelson of Florida and thank him for leading the charge against this bill. Senator Nelson's office has been the real hero in this fight so far.

If you are letting your voice be heard anyway, contact your local Congressman also. While this for now is just a Senate issue, House members and Senators do talk and you just don't know what influence you local Congressman might have. If you really feel strongly contact your local and state government also. Ask them to pass a resolution in opposition to this bill.

I want to thank each and every one of you all for your support and again thank Dr. Masters for allowing this forum. If we can keep this issue in the spotlight in the blogs and in the media and continue a grassroots effort we will kill this bill.

Thank You
Dan Sobien

180. dprobins
2:02 PM GMT on April 29, 2005
Very few people appreciate the number of steps that goes into producing one forecast. Privatizing these steps would result in costing the government money to use each of these services in severe cases. The result won't be extra money in my pocket.

Besides, the weather forecasts are wrong nearly 90% of the time. I'd prefer to be provided incorrect forecasts from the government than having to pay extra for inaccurate, shoddy forecasts from TWC or AccuWeather. They all suck!
Member Since: September 27, 2001 Posts: 0 Comments: 1
178. btangy
3:22 AM GMT on April 29, 2005
I fear this bill will make NCEP and NWS like the ECMWF (European Center for Medium Range Weather Forecasting)

They don't issue short term weather forecasts, and they don't make their data publicly accessible. This bill is definitely a step in that direction. Try to search for ECMWF model data or forecasts? Try to find something for free as comprehensive as NCEP's site. Believe me... you won't.

As a student in the field and a forecaster myself, I think this bill will affect more than just NWS employees responsibilities. What about forecasting tools like MOS? NCEP model output ...NAM/GFS/SREF? Will those go offline too because they can be considerred in competition with private forecasts. I think the language of the bill is so vague, it might sweep up a lot of indirect forecasting tools available publicly today.

The private sector is a big part of meteorology now... there's no doubt it's the fastest growing sector. However, I don't think private companies are ready to be entrusted in handling the nation's forecasting.
177. strider
9:34 PM EST on April 28, 2005
Here is another more conspiratorial take on this issue, inspired by the RAWSTORY article above, and with thanks to Jim Dantin.

Quoting from the article:
"The National Weather Service has not focused on what its core mission should be, which is protecting other people's lives and property," said Barry Myers, the Executive Vice President of AccuWeather...

As Jim said, we need to follow the money. But I would add that we should also follow the chain of lies and misinformation.

Barry stated very plainly above that the core mission of the NWS should be redefined to make room for his company. His choice of words would seem to be stating a preexisting fact, when in truth he is arguing for change, and I call that an act of deliberate misinformation.

The mission of the NWS is what it's always been. All we have to do to figure it out is take a look at how it's organized.

NWS is under NOAA. NOAA is under the Department of Commerce. The Department of Commerce is mainly concerned with protecting commercial interests, such as agriculture and aviation.

Note that the GFS numerical weather model used be called AVN, and was initially used for aviation forecasts to help protect commercial aviation, and of course it is in the commercial interest of the United States to do so. It's pretty good for tropical weather as well, and is used in part to help protect commercial shipping.

Agriculture used to be the backbone of our economy. Even in our modern indiustrial era we would be hard pressed to profit from workers who can't eat. So agricultural forecasts are also in the commercial interest.

Protecting lives and property are very important as well, even when looked at from a strictly commercial standpoint. Since 1933, our land and improvements thereon have been collateralized, and the Federal Reserve makes it possible for the government to borrow money against these assets. Further, I think it was in the late sixties, the Gross National Product metric was devised (since revised into the Gross Domestic Product) to calculate the monetary value of the production of American workers, and with this, credible estimates of future production can be made, creating another asset the government can borrow money against. So it is in the commercial interest of the United States to protect lives and property. So as far as I can tell, that's the core mission of NOAA and the NWS.

This is not to say that the NWS can't be reorganized under another department of government. If the core mission was changed to protecting solely lives and property, and not commerce, and given that the NOAA weather radio network has already been upgraded to an 'all-hazards' warning system, including terrorist attacks and hazmat events, there is no reason a mission-limited NOAA couldn't be re-orgged under the Department of Homeland Security.

Arguments could be made that this would actually be a good thing, though I remain against the retasking of the NWS.

Of course I have no direct information that's what's going to happen, but then I don't even know where the smoke-filled rooms are, much less what goes on in them. And perhaps speculation and conspiracy theories such as this are not the best use of blog space. But my gut tells me there's something going on beyond a simple plan to increase AccuWeather's profitability. The mechanics of dismantling the NWS have been talked about for at least ten years, so I don't think this is a random issue creeping up in a vacuum. I think they're looking for a way to begin the process, so they're testing the waters, and AccuWeather has agreed to be the lightning rod.

In my opinion the current version of the bill is weak, and will probably be dropped, even though we should go through the motions of opposing it (yes, I signed the petition). But we'll know when they're really ready to do it when they tack a revised and more comprehensive version of their evil plan on to a must-pass appropriations bill in the wee hours of the morning.
176. JimDantin
2:14 AM GMT on April 29, 2005
Here are a couple good background articles:

In cases like this, you can usually figure out who has the most to gain by following the money. In this case, the money seems to have flowed from Accuweather executives to the senator's coffers.
Member Since: July 7, 2004 Posts: 0 Comments: 0
175. strider
6:11 PM EST on April 28, 2005
Let me see if I understand how it all works.

Twice a day at 0Z and 12Z they fly the weather balloons. Then the data from these and other sources is put into the computer models. Then the models run and generate their output. Then the forecasters look at the output, compare it with their own opinion about what the weather will be (based on the same data) to make sure the models aren't blowing big chunks (such as convective feedback issues), make a judgement about which model to use or how to compromise between the different ones and then put together and issue the forecasts.

Now if all this is true (and I'm sure there's a lot I left out) then it would seem that the NWS would have to operate pretty much the same way, every day, whether there be fair weather or foul.

Unless of course they plan to close the local weather offices and concentrate all NWS activity at the NSSL. If they sold the WSR-88Ds to the private sector, they could theoretically downsize to only doing severe weather advisories. And it is a scary thought.

The problem with this is not that it wouldn't save money. Of course it would. But I'm not willing to get rid of the local forecasters that know their CWA. The computer models are very far from perfect, despite the prevailing opinion among policy makers who would like to use this misconception for their own ends.

Skilled humans are required in the forecasting loop to produce a usable forecast. The fact that this misconception exists is testamental not to the models, but to our local forecasters who interpret them. Downsizing and consolidating the NWS, the first step of which I fear is the real intent of the legislation under debate, would I think quickly create more confusion and unpredictibility than would be compensated for by anything the private sector could bring to the table.

Refer to these papers by retired meteorologist Chuck Doswell:
174. w3mdc
12:44 AM GMT on April 29, 2005
I think I can sum it up in just one word:ASSININE!

Member Since: February 7, 2002 Posts: 131 Comments: 50
172. nwseo1
7:57 PM GMT on April 28, 2005
As an National Weather Service Employees Organization (NWSEO) steward, I can honestly say that Dr. Masters is 100% accurate and we appreciate Weather Underground's support of the NWS. We also appreciate the Weather Underground service. I use it and other private weather web sites,
myself, at home and work.

Anybody that has been intently following the relationship between a certain well-known weather company and the NWS, like I have for the last 15 years, would know that this company wants the NWS to stop issuing zone forecasts. The ones that are used to support smaller weather companies like Weather Underground. And by the way, my home page has 3 Weather Underground web helper links to three cities.

A bill similar to S786 was actually passed by the House in 1999, but failed in the Senate. The executive of this well-known company stated at a Congressional Hearing that by getting out of the general forecast business, the NWS could reduce its staff by 50%.

I'm not going to explain why that statement was ridiculous, since Dr. Masters already explained this.

Since 1991, the NWS had been working under a non-competition clause, but this was drawn up before the age of the Internet and this was not a US Government law. The NWS was working under the Organic Law of 1890 and still is today. This law allows the NWS to issue forecasts for the protection of lives and property, including general forecasts. With the ambiguously written S786, by specifically stating that only "severe weather forecasts and warnings" were exempt, it repeals the Organic Act of 1890 and opens the doors for an endless parade of lawsuits against the NWS. The NWS would have to prove in a court of law that every single product it issues or has issued was a severe weather product. Two years ago a commision was set up to study this competition theory. These people are very smart and were high level executives of major corporations. Their findings in the "Fair Weather Report" was why the NWS repealed its own 1991 rule in Dec 2004.

As a webmaster and a rain forecaster, this will be a nightmare. My rain forecasts are automatically posted to the web as well as automatically ingested into hydrologic models. If I draw a forecast map with 10 inches of rain it could be an argued severe weather product and would be of course useful in my briefing with emergency managers. But in other days when I issue a map with a quarter inch of rain, it would not be severe, or would it if flooding is already occurring. The NWS would likely play it safe by issuing nothing but raw data, warnings and severe weather statements.

One could argue that NOAA Weather Radio was competition with the private sector during times of sunny skies, mets answering newspaper reporters phone calls, mets briefing emergency managers, etc, etc, etc.

What a big fat nightmare for everybody.

It saddens me that a few people are trying to politicise this issue. Spin it etc. "NWS are just full of lazy gov't workers" "NWS workers are elitists" "Private companies would be run better." This is the biggest pile of BS. Most mets have been weather geeks since they were 8. We are meteorologist that just so happen to work for the governemt. It is their life. Goverment Executive Magazine gave the NWS stright A's. The only government agency in the federal government to get the perfect 4.0. President Bush has stated that he considered the NWS a model agency.

So, the majority on this blog have it right and are not crying wolf. Dr. Masters is right. This law would not only hurt the smaller weather companies while benefitting the few large ones, but it would be deadly.

I'll answer any questions. If you require proof of anything said above I'll send in a link to read for yourself.

I have written this on my own time, on my own key board, in my own home and using my own paid Internet provider. These are views of the NWSEO only, not that of the federal gov't, NOAA, or NWS. I was vague about comapny names and people to be protected from lawsuits.

Be careful with what you read. I saw that it was proven that people were writing into blogs with IP addresses coming from certain well known weather company computers.

171. JosephB
11:04 AM CDT on April 28, 2005
It seems to me that AccuWeather and CWSA are the ones who fear competition. They are the ones trying to stifle the development of new products at NOAA and NWS.

We have a patent/copyright system in this country. If AccuWeather wants to cash in on meteorology, let them develop state-of-the-art products better than those offered by NWS, and let them apply for patents and copyrights to protect their inventions and intellectual property, just like the rest of us in the private sector have to do.

NOAA and NWS do not have unlimited budgets to pursue whatever whim comes along. They work under budget constraints. In fact, NOAA and NWS are often handicapped by political wrangling, so it seems to me that there is still plenty of opportunity for the private sector to develop products better than those offered for NWS.

It's not like the private sector was denied the opportunity to take the lead in meteorology and climatology. The private sector had the chance to lead in this field, and chose not to puruse it, so the Federal government stepped in and took the lead over 50 years ago to fill the void. As the saying goes, you snooze, you loose...

I work in a private company, and it rather boils my blood when I see private companies whine about competition against the government. My advice would be to stop whining and take a cue from those enterprising souls who take that competition as a challenge, and push the envelope to develop something better.
170. billkodak
10:24 AM EDT on April 28, 2005
lowekarhp, the assertions you sent to Senator Allen could hardly be more inaccurate. Read the well researched posts in this blog from duncanwx and MurphyPhillips. They have both apparently read the bill. Have you?
Member Since: January 20, 2004 Posts: 0 Comments: 0
169. billkodak
10:19 AM EDT on April 28, 2005
rcwx, you make some excellent points.
There is a touch of elitism at NWS. I think they fear competition.
Member Since: January 20, 2004 Posts: 0 Comments: 0
168. lowekamp
2:21 PM GMT on April 28, 2005
Since I live in Virginia, and our Sen. Allen is on the Commerce committee, I sent him this email:

Sen. Allen,

I am writing regarding S.786, "A bill to clarify the duties and responsibilities of the NOAA and the National Weather Service," which has recently been referred to the Commerce Committee. I am STRONGLY urging you to oppose this bill.

Sen. Santorum has introduced this bill in exchange for funding from AccuWeather, Inc. Its provision in Sec 2(b)is intended to prohibit the National Weather Service from issuing forecasts except in emergencies. This bill blatantly panders to AccuWeather at the cost of both US citizens and other companies in the US.

First, this bill would waste millions of taxpayer dollars by forcing the NWS to develop forecasts that they could not actually publish. The NWS would still be necessary for severe weather forecasts, other safety-related forecasts, and some aviation purposes, but in order to fulfill those duties they would be preparing forecasts that they would be prohibited from publishing.

AccuWeather has been around for decades competing with the NWS. There is no sign that they are going out of business anytime soon.

While prohibiting the NWS from issuing forecasts would doubtlessly improve AccuWeather's profits, it would damage countless other US companies that rely on the high quality, inexpensive NWS forecasts. Many TV stations and websites rely on NWS forecasts. I personally pay money to a website that uses them (, because I appreciate the quality of the forecasts and the interface. This bill is intended to drive these companies out of business, increasing consumer costs and eliminating the primary source of high quality, free forecasts.

Weather forecasting is a vital public service. It makes no more sense to force privatization of this than of airline security. I urge you to oppose this bill in the Commerce Committee.
Member Since: March 17, 2005 Posts: 0 Comments: 0
167. Rama
8:41 AM CDT on April 28, 2005
Duncanwx, all that 2.c.1 of this bill does is say that products issued by the NWS and NOAA should be transmitted in a timely and fair manner. If that was all this bill said, then that's great. However, it does NOT say what products should be issued nor does it protect any products from being bared from being issued.

Again, the real crux of this bill is 2.b, which gives the Sec of Commerce (a politican) sole power to stop the NWS from issuing products.

As for private companies, I have no issue with them issuing their own forecasts nor with the training or expertise of their forecasters. As a matter of fact, my college roommate works for Accuweather. Experience from my college days when I was actually in a meteorology program tells me that you're more likely to get a better forecast if you concentrate on a small area and have experience with that area. The fact remains that the NWS, through their forecasters actually in local offices, is better equiped and better staffed to handle forecasts on a local level than any national weather company.

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