Weather regulations unleash tempest in Senate

Posted on Wed, May. 11, 2005





Weather regulations unleash tempest in Senate

BY STAN FINGER

The Wichita Eagle

A Senate bill seeking to clarify the duties of the National Weather Service is generating a storm of controversy.

The bill, introduced last month by Sen. Rick Santorum, R-Pa., would prevent the weather service from offering products or services that are or could be offered by private-sector weather companies such as WeatherData in Wichita or AccuWeather in State College, Pa....


See the full article at http://www.kansas.com/mld/kansas/news/loca...al/11616420.htm
 
And there you have their intent...


Smith argues that the weather service could save money by not duplicating services provided by the private sector, such as customized digital cell phone forecasts, plotted maps and digests of severe storm reports and enhanced radar displays.




They would love to make sure the NWS doesn't give this stuff out for free. If given the opportunity ACCU-Weather and others would take everything they can get.

BOYCOTT these services.
 
I have posted on this subject on StormTrack many times.

WeatherData®, Accu-Weather, the Commercial Weather Services Association, and Sen. Santorum are not trying to keep you from getting weather information. Quite the opposite: The bill force the NWS, for the first time, to release 100% of its data in real time. Would that be helpful to you?

We don't want another Hurricane Charley when the NWS withheld a "vortex message" that would have revealed the intensification for 34 minutes while it organized a press conference for itself.

We are also trying to get the NWS to focus on its mission of collecting quality data, storm warnings, essential ("core") forecasts for the public, guidance, and essential aviation and marine forecasts.

The NWS recently changed a successful 50-year policy designed encourage the commercial weather industry to a policy that allows the NWS to unfairly compete with us. Did you have any problem getting the information you needed in 2003? If not, you won't have a problem with this bill because it simply puts into law the specific policy that existed from 1991 to 2003.

We have a free enterprise economy: AccuWeather, WeatherData, The Weather Channel, Meteorlogix, etc., should all compete with each other. The government should not compete with us.

The private sector weather industry created tornado warnings, color radar, radar remoting (sending radar images from one place to another), time-of-arrival algorithms, computerized color newspaper weather packages, etc., etc. Do you really want this innovation to disappear (like it did in Canada when the government was allowed to compete)? If so, where are the future Threat-Nets and Storm Hawks going to come from.

Of course, companies want to get as much business as they can. What is wrong with that?

Below is a verbatum copy of the bill. Two notes: I would prefer the word "essential" to "core" in the reference about hydrometeorological forecasts. It was decided to use the identical language (which was "core") the NWS used in its 1991 "Public-Private Partnership Policy." The references to Secretary of Transportation are intended to mean essential marine and aviation forecasts are made by the NWS. Give it a fair reading. You will probably end up supporting the bill.

Mike Smith


IN THE SENATE OF THE UNITED STATES

April 14, 2005


Mr. SANTORUM introduced the following bill; which was read twice and referred to the Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation
________________________________________________________________________________________________


A BILL


To clarify the duties and responsibilities of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and the National Weather Service, and for other purposes.

Be it enacted by the Senate and House of Representatives of the United States of America in Congress assembled,

SECTION 1. SHORT TITLE.

This Act may be cited as the `National Weather Services Duties Act of 2005'.

SEC. 2. DUTIES AND RESPONSIBILITIES OF NATIONAL OCEANIC AND ATMOSPHERIC ADMINISTRATION AND NATIONAL WEATHER SERVICE.

(a) NATIONAL WEATHER SERVICE- To protect life and property, the Secretary of Commerce shall, through the National Weather Service, be responsible for the following:

(1) The preparation and issuance of severe weather forecasts and warnings designed for the protection of life and property of the general public.

(2) The preparation and issuance of hydrometeorological guidance and core forecast information.

(3) The collection and exchange of meteorological, hydrological, climatic, and oceanographic data and information.

(4) The provision of reports, forecasts, warnings, and other advice to the Secretary of Transportation and other persons pursuant to section 44720 of title 49, United States Code.

(5) Such other duties and responsibilities as the Secretary shall specify.

(B) COMPETITION WITH PRIVATE SECTOR- The Secretary of Commerce shall not provide, or assist other entities in providing, a product or service (other than a product or service described in subsection (a)(1)) that is or could be provided by the private sector unless--

(1) the Secretary determines that the private sector is unwilling or unable to provide such product or service; or

(2) the United States Government is obligated to provide such product or service under international aviation agreements to provide meteorological services and exchange meteorological information.

© ISSUANCE OF DATA, FORECASTS, AND WARNINGS-

(1) IN GENERAL- All data, information, guidance, forecasts, and warnings received, collected, created, or prepared by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration or the National Weather Service shall, to the maximum extent practicable, be issued in real time, and without delay for internal use, in a manner that ensures that all members of the public have the opportunity for simultaneous and equal access to such data, information, guidance, forecasts, and warnings.

(2) MODE OF ISSUANCE- Data, information, guidance, forecasts, and warnings shall be issued under paragraph (1) through a set of data portals designed for volume access by commercial providers of products or services and by such other mechanisms as the Secretary of Commerce considers appropriate for purposes of that paragraph.

(d) PROHIBITION ON CERTAIN DISCLOSURES- An officer, employee, or agent of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, the National Weather Service, or any other department or agency of the United States who by reason of that status comes into possession of any weather data, information, guidance, forecast, or warning that might influence or affect the market value of any product, service, commodity, tradable, or business may not--

(1) willfully impart, whether directly or indirectly, such weather data, information, guidance, forecast, or warning, or any part thereof, before the issuance of such weather data, information, guidance, forecast, or warning to the public under subsection ©; or

(2) after the issuance of such weather data, information, guidance, forecast, or warning to the public under subsection ©, willfully impart comments or qualifications on such weather data, information, guidance, forecast, or warning, or any part thereof, to the public, except pursuant to an issuance that complies with that subsection.

(e) REGULATIONS- Not later than 90 days after the date of the enactment of this Act, the Secretary of Commerce shall prescribe regulations to implement the provisions of this section.

(f) PRODUCT OR SERVICE DEFINED- In this section, the term `product or service' means a product, service, device, or system that provides, senses, or communicates meteorological, hydrological, climatic, solar, or oceanographic data, forecasts, or other similar information.

(g) EFFECTIVE DATE- The provisions of this section (other than subsection (e)) shall take effect 90 days after the date of the enactment of this Act.

(h) CONFORMING AMENDMENTS- The Act of October 1, 1890 (26 Stat. 653) is amended as follows:

(1) Section 3 (15 U.S.C. 313) is repealed.

(2) Section 9 (15 U.S.C. 317) is amended by striking `, and it shall be' and all that follows and inserting a period.

SEC. 3. REPORT ON MODIFICATION OF NATIONAL OCEANIC AND ATMOSPHERIC ADMINISTRATION AND NATIONAL WEATHER SERVICE ACTIVITIES.

(a) REPORT- Not later than 90 days after the date of the enactment of this Act, the Secretary of Commerce shall submit to the appropriate committees of Congress a report that sets forth--

(1) a detailed statement of the activities, if any, of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and the National Weather Service that are inconsistent with the provisions of section 2;

(2) a schedule for the modification of the activities referred to in paragraph (1) in order to conform such activities to the provisions of section 2; and

(3) the regulations prescribed under section 2(e).

(B) APPROPRIATE COMMITTEES OF CONGRESS DEFINED- In this section, the term `appropriate committees of Congress' means--

(1) the Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation of the Senate; and

(2) the Committee on Science of the House of Representatives.

END
 
All due respect to free enterprise and private weather companies, but the arguments presented by them for this bill will not hold ground, and currently do not really seem to hold ground, to the common person. A few other people and I have read the bill...in fact, some of us a couple times...and we still call into question what does this bill do...what does this bill say? Make into law a policy, as it is argued (ok???). But the language of the bill is terrible at best. It is WAY to open to interpretation...the language needs to be more concrete (or as I personally see, dismissed from the Senate).

As Mike said above, without private industry a lot of things wouldn't be around. That's to private industry's credit. But his argument falls through by mentioning Storm Hawk or Threat Net. While these tools are great for hardcore chasers and weather enthusiasts, why does Farmer Joe of Finney Co., KS need these tools? Can someone really justify to him why he needs a hundred or thousand dollar software (or hardware) system to get something he can get from his local WFO? This is the main question people ask: the government has good people with the ability and time to put out products that DO effect public safety and interest, yet it seems private industry thinks they can do it better or have a right to do it(and for another buck). This is what the people don't understand.

Further, Mike notes the press conference and Hurricane Charley. This part of the bill I agree with. The NOAA agencies need not have press conferences on VITAL information...get it on the wires and get it out there. Why does there need to be a bill for this? It sounds more like a superior should be chewing out a subordinate for dropping the ball. This part of the bill makes sense...clean up the activities and internal workings of NOAA agencies...get information out and don't be biased to any organizations. And if it does happen, have penalties in place to take care of the offense.

Just my humble opinion.
 
Originally posted by Mike Smith

We have a free enterprise economy: AccuWeather, WeatherData, The Weather Channel, Meteorlogix, etc., should all compete with each other. The government should not compete with us.

Whew... Since the government should not compete with private sector, they shall no longer be allowed to develop various products or new techniques that will more effectively get life-saving information to the public. Baron should sue the NWS over its use of polygon warnings, since the polygons look a little like Baron's pathcast product, or whatever it is that plots the area's affected and the towns to experience the severe weather. Let the goverment spend money collecting info, and let the private sector repackage the free, tax-payer-supported data, and SELL it to others. In fact, make products very similar to the NWS, and try to sell those. Don't put several offices in every state -- just let computers do all the forecasting. Excellent idea.

In my opinion, some of the private sector companies are trying their best to eliminate competition, which is the government in this case. They don't want to spend the money deploying their own observation network -- they just want to use free data to sell their own product. Don't let the NWS develop graphic-based forecasts that actually appeal to people, since that'll mean more competition for some private sector companies. I just say stop whining, develop products that are unique and, if people want it, they'll pay for it.

Disclaimer: this applies only to some private sector businesses.
 
Originally posted by Jeff Snyder

In my opinion, some of the private sector companies are trying their best to eliminate competition, which is the government in this case.

That is the problem in a nutshell though - deciding what level of information delivery is "ok". The bill would support on the most elementary scale that *if* an individual really wanted to get data directly from the NWS they would need to have their own way to convert the data stream into a meaningful product. For instance - you might get the precipitation forecast a a series of polygon definitions - and perhaps a plain text discussion in NWSease, for the average Joe to then interpret and generate their own plot if they wanted to see it visually. Reality is of course that there are several universities and NSF funded facilities that already take various portions of the enormous data stream and make it available on the web in readable (though those text products could be taken away) and graphical forms, in addition to those posted on the web. I could live with getting what is freely available - recognizing the resources needed to make various products, but I dread the thought that some public organization wouldn't step in to provide some of the products only available from NWS sites that I really enjoy, such as the SPC mesoanalysis graphics.

I understand the point Mike and others are making that there shouldn't be compentive products - but the problems is where to draw the line between a product that *could* be used by the typical citizen to protect life and property - and what format that should be available to them in. I feel that the graphical products makes the transfer of information to the public more effective - and while private companies could make similar products - I prefer to have the official product delivered directly from the source and not be reliant on a middle man.

Glen
 
Originally posted by Glen Romine

I prefer to have the official product delivered directly from the source and not be reliant on a middle man.

Glen

Especially if that middle-man, which operates as a BUSINESS, is directly interested in making $$. All businesses operate on a bottom line, and thus revenue generation is necessary. For public entities such as the NWS and SPC, you don't need to necessarily question their motives since $$ generation isn't a primary goal (politics aside).
 
I still don't understand all of the issues at play here, but a first reaction would be that lives are the more important concern, and any advantage we can give the public would seem reasonable to promote, not attempt to silence. If this data becomes privatized, then should we apply the same principles to organizations like the USGS and Homeland Security?
 
"If this data becomes privatized"

You read it backwards... The NWS is keeping data private NOW, then releasing it delayed to the private sector / public afterwards. This bill would stop that.
 
All,

I agree the language could be better -- but this is EXACTLY the National Weather Service's own language from the Public-Private Partnership Policy in 1991 that was in effect until 2003. Did you have any problem getting the data you needed in those years? If not, you won't have any problem if this becomes law. For that matter, was there a problem with the NWS getting data to the public from 1948 to 1991? That is when the earlier policy called for the NWS to serve the public and the private sector to serve specialized users.

I actually know farmers and other folks in Finney Co. To the best of my knowledge, they did not have problems getting information in 2003. They won't in the future, either. The NWS will still have its web sites, NOAA Weather Radio (from which 3% of the population gets its weather), etc.

Re: Charley. Vortex messages used to be immediate. Once the NWS started competing, the vortex messages started to be delayed. Every vortex message we received in 2004 was delayed.

Re: "Trying to eliminate competition." There are more than 300 companies and individuals in the private sector weather industry. WeatherData®, Weather Central, WDT, Meteorlogix, AccuWeather, Weather Underground, Weathertap, Unisys, WeatherBank, SSI, The Weather Channel, Fleet Weather, WeatherNews, Universal Weather, etc., etc., etc. Look at the back of the "Bulletin" for many more. This isn't enough competition?!

All of these companies battle each other to produce the best products at the best price, which is as it should be. All we ask is a level playing field. When the government gets involved it distorts the free market because the government uses our tax dollars against us and is not subject to the name taxes and barriers to entry we are.

As to the folks that have written (the same) letter to editors to newpapers across the country comparing "private weather vs. NWS" to "U.S. Postal Service versus Fedex" are you really wanting the NWS to charge for its products? If not, the comparison is not valid. There is no way FedEx could survive if the USPS delivered packages free.

Re: "stop whining" I'd love for that remark to be made to the face of one of the more than one hundred private sector meteorologists laid off since the policy went into effect. How about Meteorlogix, which went into bankruptcy, costing many jobs? While WeatherData has done OK, we have lost significant business and suffered some economic stress as a result. We paid less tax -- which meant that our share of the NWS budget was less.

Canada has already tried letting its government weather service compete and its private sector industry was decimated. Canada has already reversed course. Why do we want to make the same mistake?

Re: "they don't want to spend the money deploying their own network" We already have. Go to:www.aws.com/aws_2001/homeland/index.html and click on the network map link. The private sector already has more real time stations than the NWS. But more to the point, the NWS' network is OUR network -- it belongs to all of us.

I know that many of you are relatively young, so let me give you some background information:

National Weather Service (NWS), like many government agencies, has a culture where the default is to hoard, rather than share, data. Let me cite just two examples:

It will surprise many to learn the private sector worked throughout the ‘70’s to pry weather satellite data (the same satellite images seen on television every day) out of the NWS and into the public domain.

When the current network of Doppler radars used by the National Weather Service was designed, it had no interface that would allow users outside of the federal government to receive or use that valuable data. The private sector weather industry worked hard to get that changed and “NEXRADâ€￾ data is viewed on NWS web sites, on television, and in businesses across the country. It is the private sector weather industry that has championed getting data distributed to everyone.

Re: "Repackage." Please go to the AMS web site and look up my article, "Five Myths of Commercial Meteorology" which was published in the "Bulletin" in July, 2002, pp. 993-996. You will find that Myth #1 is that the private sector "repackages" NWS output. We create original storm warnings, forecasts, products and technology. Why? Because our clients demand it.

Glen, thank you for your thoughtful comments. However, I want to make sure you and everyone realize the web sites along with basic ("core") forecasts, etc. would not go away. Neither would basic graphics (say, the type used by SPC). The Department of Commerce would make the final decision.

Mike, thank you for your comments. We agree that lives are the most important consideration which is why this bill concentrates the NWS on that mission. However, I think you will agree that hourly point-specific dew point forecasts are not intended to save lives. This is one of the products that has caused WeatherData and others to lose business.

Let me sum up my position (and our industry position) again: The NWS should focus its efforts on meteorological infrastructure, storm warnings and other essential services. The private sector should serve the specialized users.

Thank you for reading my remarks.

Mike
 
Originally posted by Mike Smith
The private sector should serve the specialized users.

I guess the argument then comes down to what a "specialized user" is. From what I've read in interviews with the weather industry they consider EVERYONE a specialized user.

If my dad has to pay someone to get a 7 day forecast Im against that.

If my dad has to pay someone to get radar data coming from the NWS radar stations, Im against that.

If an insurance company wants to know the potential hail damage for the next month in the counties of nebraska so they can determine what policies to issue then by all means...private sector can provide that.

If a private security company wants to know the weather details for chicago because they have a VIP flying in and they want an 800 number with a trained meterologist on the other end to advise them hours before they arrive...private sector can provide that.

Im against taking what they have already done and handing it over to the private sector so they can resell it. That's plain stupid.

....again...depends *who* defines what a specialized user is.
 
I guess I'm not sure what all of Mike Smith et al objections are; after all the NWS doesn't produce anything like StormHawk, WxWorx or other related products.

Anybody who uses extensive data from the NWS has also likely purchased products from the private section. Software, hardware.. heck even NOAA radios. Where's the problem?

It seems to me there's plenty of healthy competition out there; everyone from the basement programmer that makes excellent wx software for chasers to the hardcore company that produces products for large customers. What is so objectionable for the NWS to release all of the publicly funded data to the public?

Perhaps if all of these various companies were using their OWN data and trying to compete with government funded weather resources than there would be an argument here....however the reality is that these companies are for the most part re-packaging publicly-funded data and are now expecting you to pay for it twice.

If the product is packaged right, is something that is useful and is reasonable in cost then the public will be interested in paying for it.

Attempting to stop the flow of free information is a disgusting move IMO.
 
Tyler,

Perhaps my writing was not clear. We are working to get the NWS to release ALL of its data to EVERYONE in real time. Where is your concern that your Dad would have to pay?

As to 7-day forecasts aren't there many, many free sources for that? Local TV, local newspaper, The Weather Channel, Accu-Weather.com, intellicast.com. I don't know whether the Secretary of Commerce would determine whether NWS forecasts beyond, say, 3 days are "essential." But, there will always be 7-day forecasts free to the public.

I looked at your web site. Welcome to the private sector! To illustrate my point above, I had to work for TWO YEARS to get the NWS to release its Level II data. Finally, Kansas' Sen. Brownback had to get personally
involved to get it done. Now, it is available to you, me and anyone else who wants it/needs it.

Mike
 
"Attempting to stop the flow of free information is a disgusting move IMO."

Did you read any of the posts above? NWS is stopping the free flow of information, this bill would release that info. I'm not sure I understand your argument...
 
Re: Mr. Erwin. Please let me respectfully suggest you read the language of the bill, which is posted above. You will see the reality is the opposite of what is stated in your post. We are trying to get all data released, not shut it down.

As to Storm Hawk and Wxworx, I perhaps have not been clear as to the principle involved. Once the NWS can compete, what will stop them from attempting to duplicate these products? They are already distributing software.
 
Did you read any of the posts above? NWS is stopping the free flow of information, this bill would release that info. I'm not sure I understand your argument...[/quote

Yes, I did read the posts above... and I would agree that there is a need to ensure that all data is released in a timely manner. But you and I know that there is more than that single issue at stake here. Is a bill needed to force the NWS to release it's data faster? No. By Mike Smith's own admission, pressure from the private and public sectors has been enough to cause massive change already; level 2 data for instance. No, timely access to data is not the sole issue here.

There was a comparison to the mail service earlier. Tell me this, what came first? Gee, there must have been a need for other services or FedEx, UPS etc would never have started. How about health care? Looks like there's lots of business at the private clinics... How about campgrounds? Looks like lots of privatly owned ones competing alongside with the state/national ones. On and on.

So what is really going on here.... hmmm. What does the NWS have to gain by putting privately owned companies out of business? Like I said earlier...produce something good and... well you know the rest.

There's enough obscure mumbo-jumbo in that bill to cause concern on the part of anyone who regularly uses the NWS data for thier own use. I'll have to agree with Tyler here and state that more clarity is required on this issue.
 
Originally posted by Mike Smith
Re: Mr. Erwin. Please let me respectfully suggest you read the language of the bill, which is posted above. You will see the reality is the opposite of what is stated in your post. We are trying to get all data released, not shut it down.

As to Storm Hawk and Wxworx, I perhaps have not been clear as to the principle involved. Once the NWS can compete, what will stop them from attempting to duplicate these products? They are already distributing software.

Read it Mike. Twice. Like most bills it's filled with lots of items that are "open to interpretation". Is a bill really needed to ensure timely release of data? How about public outcry? Was this bill brought about by pressure from the public, or by companies such as yours? Sorry, but your position on this matter is not going to come accross as unbiased IMO.

NWS making StormHawk like units? Gimme a break. Did they ever make NOAA radios? Those have been around for a loooong time.
 
There are a lot of differences in interpetation on what atmospheric scienteists/storm chasers view of the bill, and what the private sector view of the bill. It's almost like two distinct groups that are reading the bill in seperate ways. Everybody in the private sector on this board is telling us what to believe from their and the private sector's point of view along with their meaning of the bill, but those who are not in the private sector are telling us what to believe from their own point of view and their meaning of the bill. Because this bill is so vaguely worded, the interpetation is so much varied between, say what the National Weather Service Employees Organization (who greatly OPPOSE the bill) believe, and what our private sector friends on this board and their respective and other companies believe.

The bottom line of the private sector is the al'mighty dollar sign, and the bottom line of those not in the private sector is the status quo and progression of the National Weather Service for the future (which I support). However, this bill is hurting the companies right now as it is putting customers against the companies and the companies against the customer to prove to each other who is right and who is wrong and each other's meaning of the bill. It has outraged customers who have cancelled subscriptions to pay weather services and boycotted products and services (and may even continue to boycott such products and services even if the bill does not pass), and it has outraged the private sector who have seen a drop in profits. Even if this bill never leaves committee, there has already been damage that has been done to the private sector as a result of the bill. Public opinion on any matter, and of course THEIR MONEY will go more far than what any company and their monetary contributions and power have to say.

I feel that nobody wins if this bill passes or fails. The private sector may place a blame on NWS for part of some downfall, but the realization is that the customer base for the private sector for weather is not as big as many think. The market is small and specialized enough that there can only be so much demand in it. The more companies that come out, the more competition there is between the companies. I feel that there is more competition between all of the private sector companies together (AccuWeather-Weather Channel-Intellicast, etc), to win a few customers then there is competition between the private sector industry and the National Weather Service, itself. I say that if you can create a better 7 day outlook than the NWS and if yours is more accurate, I'll follow yours more than the NWS.

If a company chooses to take a stand in a certain issue, be prepared to lose business, you are certainly going to have customers that do not agree with you that will cancel subscriptions and stop feeding you THEIR MONEY which makes your living. The certain weather companies that have not made a stand or an agressive one at best, I applaud you. Making an agressive stand on this issue is just only going to hurt your company, and even if this bill passes, you may not recover. Should this bill not pass and you are a company, just find a product of the NWS and make it better. Improve on what the NWS has and make it better. Good example: GRLevel3.

Just my 2 cents, but certainly open to discussion.
 
Mr. Erwin,

Are you advocating the NWS charge for its output? If so, that would be the best thing to ever happen to the commercial weather industry!

If you are not advocating the NWS charge for its products, then your comparisons do not hold water.

The U.S. and Canadian postal services charge fees for their services. U.S. National Parks charge a fee. The comparison with health care does not work in the United States as the government does not run health clinics.

Let me restate what I said in an earlier post: If the USPS delivered packages free, FedEx would be out of business in a matter of months. A business cannot compete with a government's free services.

The National Weather Service's resources are finite. Doesn't it make sense to concentrate them on where they will do the most good?
 
Originally posted by Tyler Allison+--><div class='quotetop'>QUOTE(Tyler Allison)</div>
<!--QuoteBegin-Mike Smith
The private sector should serve the specialized users.

I guess the argument then comes down to what a "specialized user" is. From what I've read in interviews with the weather industry they consider EVERYONE a specialized user.

If my dad has to pay someone to get a 7 day forecast Im against that.

If my dad has to pay someone to get radar data coming from the NWS radar stations, Im against that.

If an insurance company wants to know the potential hail damage for the next month in the counties of nebraska so they can determine what policies to issue then by all means...private sector can provide that.

If a private security company wants to know the weather details for chicago because they have a VIP flying in and they want an 800 number with a trained meterologist on the other end to advise them hours before they arrive...private sector can provide that.

Im against taking what they have already done and handing it over to the private sector so they can resell it. That's plain stupid.

....again...depends *who* defines what a specialized user is.[/b]

I agree with Tyler's comments quoted above. I didn't mean to say/imply that I don't think there's a need for private sector companies. With the examples given by Tyler, I think this shows that there is a definite spot for private sector businesses. I just think that private sector companies should worry more about making a product on which people will spend money. If there is a need, and a product available for fill that need, I think it'll sell. Restricting the 'derived products' from the NWS and other NOAA organizations does not scream of 'innovation', to say the least.

Mike Smith, while I do not agree with you, I certainly appreciate and respect the time and effort you've given to this discussion.
 
Worse case scenario of weather data, in the hands of the private sector is lightning data. Too bad the NWS cannot give us free lightning data, last I knew that had to pay for the data also, hopefully with more competition in the private sector, prices will drop for the data.

Mike
 
Originally posted by Mike Smith
Mr. Erwin,

The National Weather Service's resources are finite. Doesn't it make sense to concentrate them on where they will do the most good?

Yes, it does. Good business sense dictates that. Why would they pull money from core needs to produce other products? Does that make sense? No it doesn't.

I didn't suggest that the NWS should charge for the data. The data has been paid for already by the U.S. taxpayer. Many people also choose to buy products produced by various companies that enhance that. This is a decision made freely by an individual based on thier own needs.

This will be my last reply on this, however I'll be glad to read any objective statements on the matter.

In closing, I respect your opinion Mr. Smith, but I cannot agree with it.
 
Mike,

Re: Lightning data.

If Vaisala does not charge, how are they supposed to develop the intellectual property (i.e., theory and software), create, install and maintain the lightning detectors, wire all this together and run a 24/7 operations center to monitor it all?

Then, how are they supposed to maintain an infrastructure to communicate with their clients if they don't charge?

Folks, please get with economic reality. No one, repeat, no one will take the RISK of developing new products/services without a potential REWARD. Vaisala and its predecessors took the risk. They might well have failed (the landscape is littered with failed weather-related companies).

Sure government, theoretically, could do it. It took NWS from 1979 to 1991 to deploy the first operational NEXRAD. Unless you want twelve year innovation cycles and a non-capitalist economy (the Soviet Union was certainly a success; Cuba has cornered the market on 1959 Buicks), you are going to have to pay for innovation.

Mike
 
In terms of lightning data, I don't have any problem that it's no 'free'. I mean, Vaisala put time, money, and more money into the deployment of the system, so I can certainly understand how they need to charge for it. In fact, I'd much rather a private company design and deploy a data system if they have the means to do so rather than having no data system at all; I'd rather have a pay lightning system than no lightning system. Sure, this means that I can't get real-time lightning data, since it's way over my price range. But again, that's business, and I have nothing wrong with that. If the NWS wanted it bad enough, they could build and deploy a system themselves, assuming they can avoid patent issues. Again, there's no Vaisala shouldn't be able to charge for their product, seeing how they designed and deployed the system.

I do think the NWS has the right to use their own data however they see fit. Chances are, they don't have the means nor motivation to forecast for site-specific events or other more specifc weather users, so there's still plenty of room for private sector companies. However, they should be allowed, in my opinion, to integrate GIS and weather radar, as long as it falls within their mission statement to protect lives and property. That means presenting potentially life-saving weather data in a fashion that would benefit the end-user. Would most folks read a highly technical weather warning, or would they rather look at a "pretty" graphic? Undoubtedly, the graphical approach seems most effective, and indeed, it'd further their mission to save life and property. Again, however, there are plenty of instances when private sector business would be a better choice than NWS, as in the cases mentioned by Tyler (in addition to myriad others).
 
Jeff,

Chances are, they don't have the means nor motivation to forecast for site-specific events or other more specifc weather users

While they are already producing a version of site-specific forecasts, I want to comment on a different part of your sentence, "Chances are".

If you have invested 24 years, through good times and bad, and have most of your net worth invested in a business in which you are very proud would you sit silently take a "chance"? Hope the NWS' new policy will work out OK? I doubt it. Those of us who have been around a while know that next year's success is NEVER assured.

I have taken the time this evening to make these posts because it is an important issue to our meteorological community (somthing most all of us are very proud to be part of). In my mind, there is too little interaction between the private sector, NWS and academic sectors and so we do not understand each others' points of view.

This will be my last post for the night and I sincerely thank everyone for considering my remarks.

Mike
 
Back
Top