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Weather regulations unleash tempest in Senate

Originally posted by rdale
I don't think that's where the issue is... The NWS needs to work on the things only it can provide - data.

Perhaps it does need to work on providing more and better data, but since when did analysis, interpretation and effective communication to the public get removed from the job description of a public meteorologist? The NWS has always been, and hopefully always will be, more than just a data feed. After all, their job is to forecast the weather and disseminate their service in the most effective manner possible. Now, are we saying - let's take this job and cut it into 2 pieces? I'm not sure I like the effect this might have on the morale of a professional.
 
Originally posted by rdale
\"Why don't private sector companies spend the millions on new radars, surface observation sites, etc?\"

Because that's the role of government! NASA does research, Boeing incorporates that into their 787. DoD put up GPS sats, Garmin sells the receiver. Why should NWS be any different? They should provide the infrastructure and forecasts / warnings from that, but should not be supplying specialized information to specific clients.

The core mission og NASA is to go to space. NASA's research into technologies is in order to go into space and do science there.

The core mission of our military is to defend our country. Our military created the GPS system to improve C3I and to allow for new forms of guided weaponry.

In both cases, the private industry's benefit is an indirect consequence of the core missions of each government agency. NASA did not do all that research so that Boeing could benefit (and most of the benefits that Boeing gets are through the things that THEY learn as they're building the rockets that will go into space... for NASA.) DOD did not put up the GPS system so that hikers could find their way in the Alps or so that we could navigate our way around the plains with Delorme -- they put it up in the air to help kill people, which is what they do. If the time ever comes when world war looks imminent, the entire GPS network will be scrambled. At heart, it's a military system designed for military application.

What you're suggesting is that NWS install more data collection devices for the ONLY purpose of giving private industry more data to play with -- not so that they (the NWS) can create better forcasts. You're asking them to do it because free is cheaper than not free, and the private weather industry wants these things for free. You're asking NASA to build rockets just for the hell of it so that Boeing stays profitable and you're asking our military to send up satellites for the sole purpose of helping private industry.

*spelling edit*
 
Originally posted by rdale
\"NASA does research, Boeing incorporates that into their 787. DoD put up GPS sats, Garmin sells the receiver.

Those entities (especially NASA.. DoD is a bit different) don't have "gag" orders on the magnitude of what this bill is proposing, with the exception of items that might be considered "important to national security".

Look at it this way; what if NASA (or JPL or other affiliations) were not allowed to show us pictures of MARS? Titan? Other good stuff... what if we were only allowed to view this material or data from a paid source (NEW! The UNIVERSE Channel!) Sure, you can say we pay for it via our cable/satellite feeds etc... however that's just the medium.. similar to what we use the internet for to get our NWS data.
 
"After all, their job is to forecast the weather and disseminate their service in the most effective manner possible."

Correct. NDFD was not created for that purpose, it was created to compete with AccuWeather / TV Stations / etc. that provide hourly/3hr gridpoint outlooks.

"Now, are we saying - let's take this job and cut it into 2 pieces?"

Missing that comparison... Forecasts and watches and warnings would still be there. GIS weather info and NDFD likely not.

"In both cases, the private industry's benefit is an indirect consequence of the core missions of each government agency."

But you are saying NASA should have held this in, since private sector will benefit? They have a large department dedicated to getting NASA "spinoffs" into the business sector. And DoD should scramble GPS all the time so Garmin would need to build their own network?

"not so that they (the NWS) can create better forcasts."

Are you saying that my post advocates NWS installing more doppler radars but not looking at the data themselves? I never said anything of the like. I fully expect NWS to utilize all the data sources available for creating better forecasts. I said that if we have more dopplers, EVERYONE will do a better job at protecting the public. I don't believe the dew point at 7pm five days from now is more important that filling in the radar holes. Guess that's where we disagree, I feel protecting the public from severe weather is the most important mission of meteorologists.

"what if NASA (or JPL or other affiliations) were not allowed to show us pictures of MARS? Titan?"

Most data that comes back from the probes is held for a year for the primary investigator. Only selected data (like images) is released publicly.

"similar to what we use the internet for to get our NWS data"

And you would still use the Internet to get your NWS data even if this bill came into play. What am I missing? Why do people think they'll stop getting zones or watches or warnings or doppler imagery? That's never been proposed and even if so the Sec of Commerce would have to go along with it. Do you realistically believe our government would conclude that the Internet is not to be used by NWS? That's quite a stretch.
 
not so that they (the NWS) can create better forcasts.

Are you saying that my post advocates NWS installing more doppler radars but not looking at the data themselves? I never said anything of the like. I fully expect NWS to utilize all the data sources available for creating better forecasts. I said that if we have more dopplers, EVERYONE will do a better job at protecting the public. I don't believe the dew point at 7pm five days from now is more important that filling in the radar holes. Guess that's where we disagree, I feel protecting the public from severe weather is the most important mission of meteorologists.

Good lord, how can you have spent this long on the board and not understand the releationship between dewpoints and severe weather? ;) (I'm kidding!)

If you want to spend money on one thing, you can't spend it on another.

Radar outages aside, the current network of radar is sufficient for detecting severe weather. Could it be better? Of course! And if you're for allocating an enormous amount of money to purchase new/more radars and for severe weather research, well, then I'm with you! Frankly, I'd like to see the phased array system move quicker. It's not like NOAA gets a lot of money -- the total request for next year is just a smidge over the cost of a single B-2 bomber, or about one thirtieth the cost of the "missile shield" we're not doing so great a job of trying to develop. If you're for reallocating existing funds to provide more radar so that private companies have more data to play with, I'm not with you. And given that you said "I don't think that's where the issue is... The NWS needs to work on the things only it can provide - data. More 88D's, more ASOS units, more profilers, more modeling, etc. Infrastructure and basic forecast / warning info. Put the money being thrown into NDFD and instead apply it towards data sources and processing.", well, I don't think I can be with you.
 
"given that your original argument was that the NWS should use their limited funds to construct more radar and data collection sites to benefit private industry at the expense of their ability to fund forecasting. "

Find that quote because I can't... I said at the expense of their industry-specific forecasting. The zones are fine. Nobody has a problem with them. It's the NDFD that is the biggest issue, and I didn't mean that to be confusing to you. NDFD is a national gridded database, from which all the other text products are generated. One other purpose of NDFD is to make sure that national forecasts are smooth, not accurate. I'm not a big fan of that either but we'll hold for another thread.

"Yes, that means everything from frost advisories to tornado emergencies. Everything else they do leads into that. There is no point in gathering data if they're not going to do that"

And nobody is advocating that they stop frost advisories or tornado emergencies.

"Put the money being thrown into NDFD and instead apply it towards data sources and processing - well, I don't think I can be with you"

Why is the gridded database more important that a doppler network like OK is getting? I just don't understand your reasoning. DO NOT EQUATE MY ISSUE WITH NDFD AS AN ISSUE WITH NWS FORECASTING. I never made those the same, you did. They are not the same. Forecasting = good, protected by this legislation, and probably better if the NWS met doesn't have to worry about smoothing his grids. NDFD = free competition with private sector meteorologists = bad.
 
My apologies if I confused the National Digital Forecasts Database with forecasts. Clearly, the National Digital Forecasts Database has nothing to do with forecasts.
 
i got this on my local Skywarn site, also a letter from Senator Obama of illinois

by Roger Edwards, SPC Mesoscale/Outlook Forecaster


Senate Attempt to Cripple the National Weather Service
A fellow Republican, otherwise typically on the right track, has disappointed me greatly. Sen. Rick Santorum, representing Pennsylvania, no doubt is giving Democrats plenty of ammunition with his ill-conceived, dangerously naive and overly vague bill -- the National Weather Service Duties Act of 2005.

This bill (which I have reproduced here from the public record) is intended to stop the National Weather Service from providing weather information to taxpayers that already has been paid for by the taxpayers, under the guise of preventing public-private competition.

The wording of the bill is so nebulous that typically over-cautious NOAA bureaucrats easily could be scared by private sector attack dogs (such as one I'll mention below) into the most draconian interpretation: You may get no public weather forecasts, no severe weather or tropical outlooks, no fire weather forecasts. You may get nothing but watches and warnings, and perhaps not even those -- if packaged in any "value added" way, such as graphics on the web. Any and all web pages from your National Weather Service could be interpreted as value added and, therefore, killed.

One media article on this bill is available from the Palm Beach Post, at least as of this writing. The Post fails to mention that it is a client of AccuWeather, a company headquartered in Santorum's jurisdiction of State College, PA, and which stands to gain handsomely from any degradation or reduction of National Weather Service functions.

Unfortunately, this is what happens when there are politicians of either party who have been either

1. Hopelessly uninformed and unaware about the subject matter of the bill they propose,

2. In the pockets of their PR-savvy, persistent, special-interest contributors, as I will illustrate for this case shortly, and/or

3. Have good ol' boy connections with their special interests, particularly in the home state, which biases their votes and bill writing in favor of those interests' pork proposals.

In this case, it's all three! Elaborating further on each point above:

1. There is not one meteorologist or earth scientist of any sort in either house of Congress. These folks are depending on staffers, none of whom are themselves earth scientists, to feed them information regarding the state of our nation's weather research and forecasting efforts. That means media reports about atmospheric science issues, which are notoriously ill-informed, oversimplified and inaccurate -- even in the media that covers science!

Government meteorologists, who are in the best position to educate lawmakers about their conditions, aren't allowed to "lobby" members of Congress by law (Hatch Act). True, a very small minority of government meteorologists are forecasters in the NWSEO union, who can write to members of Congress, but only on union letterhead. Even then, only a tiny minority of NWSEO members bother.

This means that, in effect, the only professional weather voice available to Senators and Representatives about forecasting issues is those of the most powerful private sector companies, such as AccuWeather and WeatherData. That voice is united against NWS forecasting, and can afford potent PR and lobbying efforts. No wonder Rick Santorum doesn't know any better! The only loud voice he hears is of one side of the argument from his college town; and in politics, money talks the loudest. This brings me to...

2. My calculations from Federal Election Commission records show that Joel Myers and Barry Myers of Accuweather have given at least $6250 to Rick Santorum's campaigns, of which $700 was refunded, for a net AccuWeather affiliated contribution of $5550. This does not include contributions that may have been made by any other AccuWeather employees, contractors or affiliates.

3. Santorum, along with fellow Penn State alumnus and AccuWeather head Joel Myers, got their degrees from Penn State, in AccuWeather's headquarters of State College PA. AccuWeather also employs hundreds of Santorum's home-state constituents and has fought the National Weather Service for years through lobbying intended to reduce its role, at great potential profit to AccuWeather. This bill, therefore, is a pork-barrel enterprise of the most blatant order.

The Palm Beach Post left out some important insight, quite possibly because of their unacknowledged conflict of interest in reporting on a firm with whom they have a business relationship. That insight instead can be found (for now) on the Raw Story site. Raw Story also reveals contributions that Joel's brother Barry Myers, also of AccuWeather, made to Santorum. [Beware -- Raw Story pumps pop-up ads into your computer!]

Clearly something smells fishy inside the halls of the Capitol, not that it would be the first time. This bill has nothing to do with protecting the public. Instead it aims to do just the opposite -- to put another layer between you and critical weather data that you already have paid for with your tax dollars -- a layer you will have to pay for yet again.

As a union steward in the NWSEO, you can bet I will be getting involved, and so should every other NWSEO member, on behalf of all their fellow forecasters who are legally censored from such political activity by the Hatch Act. So should you, if you do not desire to pay twice for your weather forecasts and data.

Write Senator Santorum, as well as the two senators from your state, to express your thoughts on the National Weather Service Duties Act of 2005. Encourage Sen. Santorum to get off the bandwagon of destruction of our weather forecast system, and off the dole of those who stand to gain financially from your National Weather Service's downfall.

Thanks to a bunch of folks, but especially bc, for alerting me to various stories about this bill.


Dear Kevin:

Thank you for contacting me with your opinion on the National Weather Service Act of 2005 (S.786). The weather affects our everyday lives regardless of severity, and the National Weather Service (NWS) does an excellent job notifying the public about what they can expect on a day-to-day basis from Mother Nature.

As you may know, the NWS was created 135 years ago to forecast the weather and provide warnings to protect life and property. It has evolved into a national meteorological database that can be accessed by other government agencies, the private sector, the public and the global community.

I agree that the National Weather Service Act of 2005 would unduly limit information provided by the NWS. This Act seeks to focus the NWS solely on alerting the public to severe weather conditions. This would remove the NWS as a source for general weather broadcasts, essentially allowing only private companies to compete over this service.

The Act is currently being considered in the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science and Transportation. I do not serve on this panel, but I will discuss your concerns with my colleagues who do.

Please don’t hesitate to contact me in the future on this or any issue of concern.


Sincerely,

Barack Obama
United States Senator
 
Barack Obama
United States Senator

I became a big fan of Barack Obama after learning about him when he made his eloquent and impassioned keynote speech at the Democratic National Convention last year. He has a book out now, called "Dreams from my Father: a Story of Race and Inheritance." I picked it up a couple of weeks ago when I saw it on the shelf. I've only thumbed through it so far, as I have four books "ahead" of it in line, but it seems like a very interesting story.

I now end this threadjack. We now return you to your normal public-private argument. ;)
 
From the people who testified to Congress in April they didn't have enough money for tornado warnings:

www.noaanews.noaa.gov/stories2005/s2447.htm

Now before you say, "wonderful!" THINK ABOUT IT.

There are a number of small software companies that are contributors to this forum. The two NWS software products released this year are going to adversely affect their businesses, especially if more are coming (as I suspect there are).

Do we really want government software on our computers?

Do we want the NWS collecting data, warning of tornadoes, etc., or do we want them developing software?

Do we want "nested offices" so they can have prettier NDFD lines?

The USA got along fine from 1948 to 2004 with the separation of private sector/public sector that existed during that period. Have we really thought through what the new "no boundaries" NWS means?

I agree with critics (and have said so publically, many times) of Santorum's bill that say the wording should be more clear. The wording can be clarified.

I urge you to write your Congressional delegation and support at least the intent of Santorum's bill.
 
Originally posted by Mike Smith
From the people who testified to Congress in April they didn't have enough money for tornado warnings:

www.noaanews.noaa.gov/stories2005/s2447.htm

Now before you say, \"wonderful!\" THINK ABOUT IT.

There are a number of small software companies that are contributors to this forum. The two NWS software products released this year are going to adversely affect their businesses, especially if more are coming (as I suspect there are).

Do we really want government software on our computers?

Do we want the NWS collecting data, warning of tornadoes, etc., or do we want them developing software?

Do we want \"nested offices\" so they can have prettier NDFD lines?

The USA got along fine from 1948 to 2004 with the separation of private sector/public sector that existed during that period. Have we really thought through what the new \"no boundaries\" NWS means?

I agree with critics (and have said so publically, many times) of Santorum's bill that say the wording should be more clear. The wording can be clarified.

I urge you to write your Congressional delegation and support at least the intent of Santorum's bill.

From what I can tell that isn't software...in fact it's no different than some WFO's "enhanced" page during severe weather events. All it is, is an all-in-one graphics webpage...actually seems to complete the mission of NOAA and NWS by providing very clear information about ongoing weather situations. They probably did it to help ease the pain that the homepages got during last year's hurricane season. I am actually impressed it took this long to do something like this...considering the SPC has had self updating pages for awhile.

Further, I would be careful of being critical of an agencies budget. Congress has to approve it (which means it approves the activities...to an extent...of an agency). Just for my information, what is the other software package coming out?

As another note, yeah the NDFD seems to be a distraction...all you have to do is view some of the forecast discussions for that (and the matching grids crap makes me mad because they should allow the forecasters to forecast). However, I think a major threat that the private sector sees is not the NWS using the NDFD, but all the little individuals who can play with the XML feeds from it and create their own little widgets and toys (from what I've seen in other boards and stories about the NDFD web programmers seemed happy...in fact I think there is a project to use the feeds for a FireFox tool). The world is getting more computer saavy; and programming and do-it-self tools are no longer black boxes--further, these toys and widgets can get out there (along with the source) for FREE. Just my humble opinion.
 
There are very similar issues and arguments in one of my projects, that of presenting and archiving transportation data for public use. TTI there's no clear distinction between real-time data and archived data. For example, a radar loop uses the current image and pulls the historical images from an archive. There's also a lot of naivite (or self-interest) when it comes to defining "value-added". The days are long-gone since the NWS just compiled TTY field obs and distributed hand-analysed maps via fax. The management and processing of data NOAA now does routinely and both the public and so-called "value-added" users expect is quite astounding. I hold it up as a shining example of what we in transportation could be doing with our own data.

Wolfson's First Law of Consultants and Private Vendors is that they never keep any history of their own and expect public institutions to do that. TTI in order to develop and improve all those public services we've come to expect that history is essential.

Baron, for example, has a proprietary algorithm to identify and post alleged TVS/mesos. I doubt they'd tell me exactly how it works so I could reproduce it, or would be able to provide any sort of an archived history for research purposes. Yet Baron expects as a matter of right access at cost to all the expertise and processing it takes to get the data to their portal and to benefit from the science which develops the algorithms and was almost completely funded by the public.

I could rant on and on. The bottom line IMHO is, keep Objectivist ideology out of our essential public services like national defense, transportation, and, for heaven's sake, NOAA. Let them do the fine job we all pay for of delivering those services to the public.
 
Originally posted by Mike Smith
The USA got along fine from 1948 to 2004 with the separation of private sector/public sector that existed during that period. Have we really thought through what the new \"no boundaries\" NWS means?

Yes, that's precisely the point! We've got along fine all these years. It's not currently broke, and there's absolutely no need to fix it, least of all with a law that restricts what the NWS can offer to the public. I'm sorry, I just don't see any good argument for new restrictions. I understand that some small companies are going to have to innovate or perish, but that's the way the game works. In an area as crucial as forecasting the weather, you can't seriously expect the government to deliberately hold up products that are extremely useful, especially not when your only argument for doing so is that it might hurt a few small businesses. Just think of all the businesses that will be benefiting from this! They will no longer have to pay the "accuweather tax". They can now use that money for other more useful purposes. It's like a tax break really - Republicans and conservatives should love it. Unless, of course, they're receiving big donations from the companies that currently levy those "taxes".

I'm sorry, this has been talked to death already and I've stayed out of it, but it's pretty clear that: a) the current bill is hopelessly vague and potentially dangerous, and B) any bill that specifically muzzles a taxpayer funded government organization solely to benefit a few small businesses is nothing but corporate welfare at its worst. Especially when the business community as a whole stands to gain if no bill is passed (see above). For the most part you people have been ignoring the fact that Accuweather et. al. make their money at the expense of other businesses.

The bottom line is that if the information can be provided for free by the NWS, it should be. Everybody benefits, except a few dinosaurs who need to learn a bit more about evolution.
 
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