AccuWeather wants to shut down free data

In a story that appeared on Slashdot today it appears your friend Joel Myers at AccuWeather want to rein in some of the free data available on the Internet . . .
http://yro.slashdot.org/yro/04/06/27/02162...6&tid=95&tid=99

In a way this sounds like nothing new, and is conceivably limited to just next-generation forecast text (at least from what I can tell; maybe others can comment on this further), but given the current administration that is in power I think there is certainly cause for concern. I have to say that Joel & co's repeated efforts to kill the diffusion of weather information are starting to become annoying.

Tim
 
Here is the policy there are talking about, June 30, 2004 is the deadline for the public to comment on this.

NOAA Issues Draft Policy to Foster "Fair Weather" Partnerships[
The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) is requesting public comment on a newly drafted policy governing NOAA's NationalWeather Service interactions and cooperation with the greater consortium of public, private and academic weather and climate institutions.

National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration/National Weather Service
Proposed Policy on Partnerships in the Provision of Weather, Water, Climate and Related Environmental Information

The information can be found here:
http://www.nws.noaa.gov/fairweather
http://www.nws.noaa.gov/fairweather/policy.php

Comments will be accepted through June 30, 2004.

Electronic submission of comments is encouraged. Please submit comments to [email protected]
http://www.nws.noaa.gov/fairweather/feedback.php

Mike
 
Maybe Joel and the boy's are finally starting to feel the crunch since the days of NIDS is gone and no one wants to go work in BFE, PA for under $20K a year. Couple that with some of the most unimaginative"innovations" in the world of private meteorology and it's a recipe for the demise of a once powerful and influential company. Maybe they could cut cost and increase margin by recycling all the hot air that comes out of Bastardi's mouth each day.

Sorry Crappuweater, the genie's out of the bottle and there's enough of us to make noise to make sure it doesn't go back in. If you guys want to stay around and maintain relevancy, how about some true innovations of your own?

Regards,

Mike
 
Here is where AccuWeather is telling its friends to comment (I believe against) the NWS proposal. Perhaps we on Stormtrack should speak up in favor of it and voice our support for free data (already paid by taxpayers). Note that there are only a couple of days left to respond.

I haven't read through this whole controversy, so if anyone is more familiar with this thing (Rob Dale? others?) please elaborate for us. Based on how the Fair Weather policy is worded it is kind of difficult to figure the exact intent and aim.

Once we are settled on where we stand I'll send out letters to all the contacts below and hope others will do the same. I do know that what we have with free radar data, model data on UCAR, GRIB for PCGRIDDS32, and of course METAR data we shouldn't give an inch on, lest we lose a yard.

Tim

1. Official comment address:
[email protected]

2.Copies should go to:
General D.L. Johnson
Director of the National Weather Service
[email protected]

Admiral Conrad C. Lautenbacher, Jr.
Under Secretary of Commerce and NOAA
Administrator
[email protected]

Secretary Donald L. Evans
Office of the Secretary, Department of Commerce
[email protected]

3. Some key Congressmen and Senators; if you want a short list of these, please contact me.

4. Your Senators and Congressperson
 
Here is where AccuWeather is telling its friends to comment (I believe against) the NWS proposal. Perhaps we on Stormtrack should speak up in favor of it and voice our support for free data (already paid by taxpayers). Note that there are only a couple of days left to respond.

I would be happy to speak up for the free data... I like the raw NIDS over the web-images generated by Accuweather, that way I can do what I want with it (make mosaics, etc.).
 
I sent an e-mail to the above addresses concerning this issue. I also sent a copy of it back to the CEO of Accuweather, so so he can see what is going on, and how we disapprove of his actions...
 
These efforts to restrict data access always make me mad - I recall a presentation by Mike Smith (Weatherdata Pres) who flatly stated that he wanted the weather service to be nothing more than a data collection, archive and dissemination service as well as providing the numerical model output. Very much like the old NIDS - but they want that back and for all products. No text forecasts, definitely no graphical products, etc..., so that guys like him could pimp the data and charge the rest of us money for what we should get for free. He'd make a fortune, and in the late 90's was still paying sub 20's salaries to starting mets - probably little better these days. I have no regrets to seeing companies like these fall flat on their faces. It reminds me of the bottled water compaines that "filter" city water and call it natural spring water. Eesh....

Glen
 
I've seen people say that AW wants NWS to only release info to EMA's / police / etc, or the AW wants NWS to not do forecasting but just run models, etc. All _far_ from what this issue is about.

NWS has always had in their law from 1991 that they would not specifically compete against the private sector. That law has been brought into play a few times - there was a NWS office in the midwest where the WCM had a daily forecast for radio stations done live from the NWS office, there are some NWS offices that used to produce forecasts for the newspapers etc. Nothing major and the law has always been there "just in case" the NWS wants to go over the line too far.

Now the NWS wants to completely remove that law from the books and their explanation is "just trust us." Nobody is looking to restrict radar data or pull NWS text forecasts from the net - we just want it kept into play that the NWS can't do things like providing a green screen and doing live remotes for TV stations or having mets charge a few bucks per month to send specialized storm forecasts to baseball stadiums and local fairs. Will they do that regardless? Probably not. But since they won't -- why is that section being specifically removed? We can debate the XML / NDFD / etc. all you want, but if the law that says "NWS won't compete" is being removed for no GOOD reason, conspiracy-theory-believer or no then there could very well be a BAD reason.

The AMS sponsored a webcast a few months ago (it may still be online) where the NWS rep was repeatedly asked why and avoided the question in more ways than our former President avoided his questioning. And about as far as the private-sector guy avoided talking about 14-day hour-by-hour forecasts ;>

Again I'm not defending AW as the company all private mets should strive to be like -- just saying that in this case they have a point.

- Rob
 
What's so big about NWS doing radio forecasts, etc? NWS is largely paid by taxpayer money, and thus is a public service. So why can't these forecasts be on the radio? Or a newspaper? Because it takes away from the private sector? Boohoo... Must there be privatization of everything? Why not have private law enforcement? ... There could be a boom of rent-a-cops...

I'm not saying there shouldn't be a private sector, since they can obviously specialize to a particular audience or market. For example, the NWS doesn't currently have the resources to do TV broadcasts like TWC or local media. Additionally, specialized forecasts for a particular site or event may be better suited for a private/public company rather than the Weather Service. However, unless there's a giant increase in funding, which isn't likely, I don't see why the private sector should be "threatened" beyond which is a semi-public service in this country - the NWS...

EDIT: I agree that a lack of a good reason for the change (in terms of official reasons) tends to give fodder to the conspiracy folk... I'm not as knowledgeable about the politics of the NWS as others, so perhaps Rick Smith, if he's reading, can add his thoughts...
 
"What's so big about NWS doing radio forecasts, etc? NWS is largely paid by taxpayer money, and thus is a public service. So why can't these forecasts be on the radio?"

They are on the radio, or in the newspaper, for stations that prefer to use the zones read by a DJ. Odds are those won't be as good of a forecasts that a local met could provide, and that's the tradeoff radio owners have to make (free yet not necessarily the best, versus paying for something that likely provides better service as long as you are staying local.)

Is taking away time the forecaster could use developing a forecast for ALL, to provide a specialized outlook for a PROFIT-MAKING radio station, acceptable? A normal-sized market could have 10-20 radio stations, so if one NWS office is going to cover that's a good chunk of time.

"Why not have private law enforcement? ... There could be a boom of rent-a-cops... "

We do! The police serve the general public. If you want your private location protected even more you can hire a security firm. Using your analogy, it's okay for the cop to spend an extra 5-10 minutes walking the halls of your business because you are a taxpayer, even if those 5-10 minutes are taken away from the cop's beat protecting the general neighborhoods.

- Rob

===
"For example, the NWS doesn't currently have the resources to do TV broadcasts like TWC or local media."

Actually they do... In Alaska the NWS office has a video forecast segment that is played on local PBS stations but open for anyone to grab and re-air...
 
The worst example, I can think about when it comes to data in the hands of the private industry, is lightning data, it is quite expensive. Be nice if somehow the NWS had their own lightning detection system.

Mike
 
"What's so big about NWS doing radio forecasts, etc? NWS is largely paid by taxpayer money, and thus is a public service. So why can't these forecasts be on the radio?"

They are on the radio, or in the newspaper, for stations that prefer to use the zones read by a DJ. Odds are those won't be as good of a forecasts that a local met could provide, and that's the tradeoff radio owners have to make (free yet not necessarily the best, versus paying for something that likely provides better service as long as you are staying local.)

Why would the zones read by the DJ as good as forecasts that a local met could provide? I've heard many media mets on radio say nothing more indepth than the typical zone forecast... I don't get it... So a media forecaster can make a better forecast than an NWS forecaster? Morgan (KOCO) is better than Miller (NWSFO OUN)? ...

Also, regarding radio... In my experience, after the morning shows, many of the "forecasts" made by a particular TV media station either are just taped forecasts or forecasts read by the DJ anyways. Case in point -- I often tune in to a local OKC radio station around 2-3pm, and what is the "latest forecast"? Nothing more than KOCO's forecast, that was made around 7am, being either re-read or the audio of the meteorologists being replayed... "The showers this morning should end around 11am, and we should be in partly cloudy skies by midafternoon".. This I hear about 3pm... Hmmm... How is this any better than NWS zone forecasts? At least the zone forecasts are updated in the late morning. Many of the radio stations I've listened to do this, so it's not just an isolated event...

"For example, the NWS doesn't currently have the resources to do TV broadcasts like TWC or local media."

Actually they do... In Alaska the NWS office has a video forecast segment that is played on local PBS stations but open for anyone to grab and re-air...

That's good. I never thought about NWS forecasts on PBS (Public Broadcasting System)... I don't see what would be wrong with that... Granted, this isn't during "severe weather" or anything like that, which only occurs a minor fraction of the time anyways... PBS is non-profit to begin with, so...
 
"Why would the zones read by the DJ as good as forecasts that a local met could provide?"

The NWS met is forecasting for a WIDE area. A private met has the ability to just forecast for the listening audience of the radio station. The NWS does not always update forecasts when minor changes occur, and they have to concentrate on a much broader area. The NWS met may be a hundred miles away from the radio station. If you are saying that NWS forecasts can't be beat then you've got blinders on. Note the use of my word "Could" -- I'm not saying that every private met will beat the NWS, but if they are doing live hits every 15 minutes in the morning odds are the private guy will be able to provide much more detailed info than a 3+ hour old ZFP.

"Many of the radio stations I've listened to do this, so it's not just an isolated event"

That's their choice... They can get a private met locally who updates all the time. Or they can rip-n-read the zones. Or they can do what they do now. It's up to the radio station's management, but having the NWS do all this for free is not appropriate when the private sector already does it.

"So a media forecaster can make a better forecast than an NWS forecaster?"

PRECISELY. Not "does" but "can" since the outlet for a private met is much more fluid than for NWS mets.

"I don't see what would be wrong with that"

Re-reading what I posted I don't think I said there was a problem with that, you said they don't have the ability and I pointed out how they do.

- Rob
 
I feel the same way about weather service as I do the health industry:

It should all be free, and the government should pay the salaries. So this puts me 100% in favor of the NWS on this issue....sorry private guys. Before any private mets jump on me for this, I'd like to add that if the government would do its job, there wouldn't be the need for a private sector. There'd be enough goverment jobs for everyone, and the information (which is often-times life-saving) would all be free - as it should be.

It's just pathetic that doctors and nurses and everyone in the health industry don't get the same treatment. No one should have to pay for any emergency/major medical assistance. But I guess if it were fair, organized crime (insurance companies) wouldn't be neccesary.
 
You are talking about America correct? Seems a little strange to ask the government to supply your local TV met (a for-profit company), give forecasts to Northwest Airlines (a for profit company), let your local utility know when they need to buy more energy (a for-profit company ) and more... That's not what this country was developed upon! Might as well take this into other fields - get rid of accountants and have the IRS do it all. No more gas stations either - government should just buy those up and supply our fuel needs.

Sorry Tim - give up Weathergraphics and I'll drop RealEMWIN because Shane prefers the NWS develop software for PC users to plot weather data. No more chase hotline either - that should be a government service too...

All I can say it - agree or disagree with the public/private interface, that's the LAST idea I thought I'd hear on this forum!

- Rob
 
I dont see any logic in privatizing our weather information. If a DJ is just reading the zones then it is already for a certain area not a wide area. That is why the call them zones!! I have been on both side of this as my dad was a tv met for 30 yrs and I have a humber of friends that are now tv mets. Where do they get the information to do their forecasts?? :shock: could it be the NWS. I am not saying that private companies shouldnt exist. On the contrary. Most chasers use one in one form or other for information out in the field. I use XM WXWORKS which is a Baron product. But for the general public its stupid for them to pay their tax dollars for the NWS to do what they do and then expect the citizens to pay a private company for that information. The private company should be footing the bill for the NWS then not taxpayers. Why should the companies get the information but not the public. The role of the NWS is to protect life and property by forecasting and warning of wx. They have to be able to get the information out to the ENTIRE public for it to be effective so for all you private mets that moan about losing money. The NWS Im sure is hiring but as long as I am paying taxes for the NWS I expect to get my information for free.
 
"I dont see any logic in privatizing our weather information."

I repeat - NOBODY IS PROPOSING PRIVATIZING WEATHER INFORMATION. The NWS has a policy stating they will not compete with private sectors and it's a policy that has worked quite well for years. Now they want to remove that policy "just because." That's the issue here, nothing more...

"If a DJ is just reading the zones then it is already for a certain area not a wide area. That is why the call them zones!!"

A NWS met (one person) makes a forecast for the entire NWS area. A private met only has to be concerned with the radio station's listening area. It's a PROVEN fact that the smaller your area of concern, the better your forecast will be.

"I have a humber of friends that are now tv mets. Where do they get the information to do their forecasts?? could it be the NWS."

Where did TV mets pop up in this debate? I'm talking about private sector, of which TV mets are a part. In any case private sector / TV meteorologists do NOT get their forecasts from the NWS. They make their own. That's why they are meteorologists. If you are talking about a reporter / weathercaster who has no weather knowledge then that person likely gets it from AccuWeather or NWS or TWC, but a weathercaster is not considered a meteorologist nor considered part of the commercial weather industry.

"But for the general public its stupid for them to pay their tax dollars for the NWS to do what they do and then expect the citizens to pay a private company for that information."

Many do because they want the best information available. The NWS forecast is not always the best for their needs.

"Why should the companies get the information but not the public."

You lost me there. What are you referring to by "companies getting info"?

"The NWS Im sure is hiring but as long as I am paying taxes for the NWS I expect to get my information for free."

And you will and that right has never been threatened. Are you in the same thread we are?

- Rob

PS I think I see where you got your viewpoint from -- "In a story that appeared on Slashdot today it appears your friend Joel Myers at AccuWeather want to rein in some of the free data available on the Internet . . ."

I'd highly suggest you actually go to that link and read Mr Myers' letter. It says NOTHING about reining in free data, or XML, or anything of the like. Yes AW would like the NWS to do less, but that's not the debate Mr Myers and the private sector is involved with. TOTALLY separate issue and one that will never fly so no worries.
 
Sorry Tim - give up Weathergraphics and I'll drop RealEMWIN because Shane prefers the NWS develop software for PC users to plot weather data. No more chase hotline either - that should be a government service too...


If you're still getting paid, what's the difference? My idea was to keep money in the pockets of private sector mets by making them gov mets and keeping money in the pockets of users by making it all free.

I never mentioned software, which isn't life-saving info, which is the point of all this. Make all the software you want, create all the nowcasting services you want. But there's no way I'll ever pay for a tornado warning or a local forecast, and neither should anyone else.

I knew I should've just stayed out of this.
 
"My idea was to keep money in the pockets of private sector mets by making them gov mets and keeping money in the pockets of users by making it all free."

There's something about running your own company which can give more satisfaction than saying you're a government employee. I just don't see how a TV station employing NWS mets would be an improvement...

"I never mentioned software, which isn't life-saving info, which is the point of all this."

NO IT IS NOT. Nobody is saying a THING about life-saving info. We're talking about going into markets served by the private sector today and saying "NWS stays out." You said private-sector mets need to be employed by NWS, Tim & I are in the meteorological private sector and while not wanting to speak for Tim I doubt we want to work for NWS.

"But there's no way I'll ever pay for a tornado warning or a local forecast, and neither should anyone else."

And this thread has nothing to do with paying for a tornado warning or a local forecast. Nobody has ever suggested you do that. The CWSA just wants NWS to keep the language that states they won't compete with private sector mets - which is unrelated to tornado warnings and zone forecast.

- Rob

PS I realize I incorrectly labeled Barry Myers from AccuWeather as Dr Myers -- Barry is the author of the letters referenced in Tim's post, not Joel (Dr) the owner of AW.
 
I am all for the private sector. They can localize the forecast for specific areas, and update as often as need. The NWS uses a large County Warning Area, and can't be as local as say a private sector who forecasts exclusively for chasers OR exculsively for a local lawn business.

I am also for the NWS. They provide great guidance products and forecasts for those who wish to not pay for the information.

The kind of "private" sector I am against is Accuweather. Awhile back, they were distributing NWS Zone Forecasts and calling them their own. They also want to try and stop the flow of free data (NEXRAD, etc.) and go back to the WSI days (at least thats what I got out of that article). I do not want to see this happen. To sum it up, I am all for the private sectors who don't play the game of Monopoly.
 
"They also want to try and stop the flow of free data (NEXRAD, etc.) and go back to the WSI days (at least thats what I got out of that article)."

I have no fear you got that wrong... Can you post the exact portion that shows it? I've received dozens of emails from Barry and others in the CWSA over the past few months and have yet to hear anyone ask for that or anything similar.

- Rob
 
Ok Rob, so you are suggesting that the private industry wants to preserve a "no competition" clause. So what exactly does that mean to you? By making your own forecast, when the NWS has already made a forecast for the same area (recognizing the regions may not exactly overlay), is this not competition? What if a severe storm is heading for a major outdoor event, let's say a NASCAR race as this is a non-public enterprise, should they not contact the appropriate individuals to alert them to the risk? Is this not appropriate, to make the NASCAR folks feel obligated to hire a private met? I disagree if so, as I think it is the burden of the private met industry to value add to what is made publicly available. I think the NWS should give out whatever they feel is appropriate to meet their mission (limits established by the Department of Commerce), and if the private industry can go beyond this and generate a market - that's great.

Glen
 
Reading between the lines, it appears to me that the main issue boils down to the NFDB:

January 8, 2004 CWSA Response to NRC Fair Weather

NRC Recommendation # 5

The NWS should make its data and products available in internet accessible digital form. Information held in digital databases should be based on widely recognized standards, formats, and metadata descriptions to ensure that data from different observing platforms, databases, and models can be integrated and used by all interested parties in the weather and climate enterprise.

CWSA Position Statement

CWSA endorses the dissemination of all NWS data and information (including experimental) in real time without delay in Internet accessible digital form to the private sector for distribution to the public in formats that are appropriate to carry out a properly defined NWS mission. The digital database should not be used to allow the NWS to expand beyond its core mission, jeopardize the existing infrastructure, or enter areas creating publicly-funded competition with the Commercial Weather Industry.

The NFDB is not a "value added" product, so the the CWSA's paranoid contention that it alone will compete with commercial weather services is simply ludicrous. Just like any other form of raw, digital data it's useless in the hands of the layman as well as the meteorologist without the proper display/visualization tools. If the CWSA is against this form of dissemination of weather information, then they should be rallying against the open dissemination of model data as well.

Again, while I won't necessarily toot the NWS' horn, I'm seeing little innovation coming from the private sector. 14 day forecasts parsed from the GFS/MRF MOS simply isn't innovation. The NFBD is. And that's what I see as being the rub for the CWSA gang. They need to quit whining and turn more of their profits into R&D dollars to "out-innovate" the NWS/NOAA and give the public REAL value-added products.

Regards,

Mike
 
Rob,
I don't think you or other private sector employees need to worry about the NWS taking over the national weather market! They don't have the resources, flat out. As I said, they can't provide in-depth forecasts for airlines, as they don't have the resources ($$ , employees, etc) to do that. That's why we need private-sector companies! This isn't about whether or not there is room in the US for private sector companies...

If radio station management wants a weather forecast for their listeners, why not allow them the option to go for the free option? Well, it's not free anways, since it's being paid for by tax money. But to them, for a similar forecast, why not choose free? Why not give radio stations the choice to choose a public-service-like source or a source that charges for the use of their products/forecasts?

I still don't think I'd say that NWS forecasts for a particular city are worse than a media forecast. In other words, I don't think media forecasts are better than NWS forecasts (as you hinted). Yes, they MAY be better, but for that mattter, NWS forecasts MAY be better as well. TV/Media mets still forecast for a relatively large area (their viewing area) anyways. Sure, they can sit down 10 minutes prior to going on-air to triple-check their forecast with the latest info, but why couldn't a weather service employee do that?

Additionally, as a pet peeve of mine, many media mets still give hi/low's as exact degrees. C'mon now, if you're confident enough to forecast a high of 88 degree, over the NWS oft-forecast upper-80s, then good for you! But I think it leads the viewers/listeners to believe that your better than you can probably be... There is an undeniable range of error in forecasting, courtesy of imperfect surface ob networks, etc etc etc. I guess this was more a gripe about private sector weather forecasts...

Moving outside media mets... TWC and Accuweather largely rely on computer forecasts (Aw man, you mean they don't make personalized forecasts for eVERY single zip code in the U.S.?...lol), which would largely make them worse than NWS forecasts... Sure they may be adjusted for the East Coast (errr, I mean any large city...), but again, it gives the viewer/user a false sense that the forecaster is better than they really are....
 
From Slashdot -
"The National Weather Service wants to update a 1991 policy that limits what data it can put on the Internet. The proposed new policy makes putting free data on the Internet official. The Private Weather Sector wants NWS to provide its new digital forecasts only in specialized data formats and would like NWS to shut down new XML data feeds.

The proposed new policy makes putting free data on the Internet official.

I am ALL for that... I consider free data to be: NIDS, SATELLITE, DIGITAL FORECASTS, WARNINGS, ETC. Why shouldn't these be free?

...and would like NWS to shut down new XML data feeds.

I am NOT for shutting down free NWS products...

Granted, all of this is based on what an "anonymous reader" writes... So who knows. The above from Slashdot is geared towards Accuweather wanting these services stopped, NOT the others that are in private sector.
 
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