Wednesday, February 15, 2012

The proposed budget cuts for the NWS. IMO a bad idea.

Hi it's Rebecca again. I thought I would talk about the proposed cuts to the National Weather Service's budget.  

President Obama’s proposed 2013 budget contains A massive cut of $126 million to the National Weather Service; a full 30% cut in funding. The budget cuts 96 positions from the weather service. the positions the  budget proposal cuts are the computer specialist job (ITO) at every forecast office. Instead the NWS is being told  to have just one central office that handles this.  ITOs use their technology skills to forecast and issue warnings. The ITO's job entails, the development and maintenance of the behind the scenes tools and scripts that push the forecast graphic out to the web. That is more difficult to do from a central location because different offices have different IT needs, The few ITO's left would have to  juggle their time between many competing priorities. I agree that a centrally located group of ITs could maintain a baseline system, but they would not have the time to run the local mesoscale computer models, or customize local computer system to display experimental datasets for the forecasters to evaluate. More and more Americans are getting the weather forecast and severe weather updates over the web. After last year's record setting number of tornadoes, and the deadliest year in over 50 years; not to mention this year's tornado counts are already way above average, can we really afford to drop our guard?  

The National Weather Service is the sole source for issuing weather related watches and warnings and its forecasts are used every day by citizens and industry. When you hear of a weather warning – it originates from the weather service. Its various groups, including the National Hurricane Center (NHC) and the Storm Prediction Center (SPC), are specialists in certain areas of meteorology and all are responsible for helping to keep Americans safe from a variety of natural hazards. The NWS's mission statement says they are to" provide information for the protection of life and property and the enhancement of the national economy.”  The agencies track record is clear and the information it provides critical to our nation. I find it hard to see how these budget cuts won’t cost lives. Imagine if these cuts had been in place last year, how many more would have died? Maybe, it would've been  1000, 2000, or more. Can we risk getting rid of those  who ensure our technology is working and our forecasts are accurate?  I think you would agree that this is an alarming move backwards when it comes to protecting the lives of our fellow citizens. These cuts risk your life and mine. I agree the government must cut back on spending. However, these cut must be thought out. Our government officials must use a scalpel not an ax. If the budget can include such things as 60 million dollars to save the Salmon, how about looking for ways to increase the NWS's budget.

The proposed budget cuts could force the NWS to shut down some of the local weather forecasting offices, maybe the one in Albany or one near you. Will  NOAA have to decide which approaching storms the hurricane hunter aircraft can cover? Will the NWS have to cut back on when and how they bring accurate weather forecast to your attention?  If you're as alarmed by all of this as much as I am, I urge you to contact your elected officials and tell them not to risk your life or that of your family.


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