Friday, June 19, 2015

Weather Or Not, John Thune Is Wrong

Republicans like South Dakota Sen. John Thune have declared war on the National Weather Service over climate change and are looking to slide in a back door cut, consolidating the country's 122 weather service offices down to just six for the entire United States.

The National Weather Service Improvement Act would order the NWS to come up with a plan for establishing regional forecasting centers within a year of enactment. It recommends that these centers be co-located with a university or government lab and staffed to ensure that local forecast quality would not be not “degraded.” After a review of the plan from the National Academy of Sciences, the NOAA administrator is ordered to set up the regional hubs within a year. 
“Focusing the National Weather Service’s resources regionally would improve the public’s access to quality forecasting and reduce the danger of local staff being overwhelmed during severe weather outbreaks,” said Senate Commerce Committee Chairman John Thune (R-S.D.), who is sponsoring the legislation. “Reforming an agency and increasing accountability will always be a challenge, but increasing public access to quality forecasting can save lives.”

It will supposedly save money, and no offices will actually close, at least that's the plan.

The bill says cost savings from consolidating forecasting would enable NOAA to reinvest in the following areas: expanding super-computing capacity, improving weather forecasts, enhancing communication of weather forecasts to the public, and expanding the use of ground-based observations and strengthening radar coverage where necessary. 
Although the measure mandates centralizing forecasting operations at six regional offices, it would not result in closure of any of the existing 122 forecast offices. Rather, it specifies that these offices maintain a warning coordination meteorologist to serve as a liaison with emergency management for storm preparedness and response activities as well as to conduct media and public outreach. Offices also would continue to maintain radar instrumentation and launch weather balloons.

But the reality is a lot stormier.

Senate Commerce Committee staff stressed that the bill is “resource neutral” — meaning that no jobs are added or taken away. But the NWSEO says that the centralization of jobs would, in time, lead to fewer positions and a deterioration in forecasting quality
Likely it would mean the elimination of over 1000 meteorologists jobs,” said Dan Sobien, president of the NWSEO. “It would take a decade for the field of meteorology to recover from a blow like that and those meteorologists to be absorbed back into the enterprise.” 
The NWSEO also worries that the consolidation would effectively sever the flow of local knowledge and expertise into the forecast process. Richard Hirn, counsel for the NSEO, wrote a commentary warning that predictions made by meteorologists unfamiliar with local geography and effects would suffer, citing academic studies.

Because what we need with stronger and more dangerous storms brought about by climate change is less weather forecasting capacity and fewer people on the ground in these local offices.  What better way to get rid of those problematic meteorologists who believe in climate change than by "streamlining" NOAA and the NWS?

Oh, and by the way, 2015 is still shaping up to be the hottest on record globally, so far ahead of 2010's record heat.

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