Sunday, July 30, 2006

If I ran a weather service

I found another anonymous post on the blog today - we are modifying the headers to make it clear that anyone who posts needs to identify themselves, so that everyone knows who is talking to whom. Our earlier post of this requirement became lost far down in the list of posts. I do want to respond to these comments, even though we do not know who made them.

Anonymous said...

"Perhaps the pops are an artifact in the forecast as the NWS does more important things than update the 60 % to 100%. Any idiot can see its raining."

I understand that the NWS does far more important things than generate routine forecasts for the next seven days. I also understand that, to NWS management at many levels, getting the mundane products out on time seems to be almost as important as getting a warning out before a life-threatening event occurs. If I ran a weather service, the emphasis would always be on getting the immediate and critical products out to the users and customers. I would also have a "caution sign" posted and broadcast for the customers stating: "Because of current severe and/or life-threatening weather, production of routine products has been temporarily suspended. Routine services will resume when the current threat has ended."

"Effort spent updating the forecast, possibly taking away resources from some other, more important task in the NWS office would be foolish."

I agree. In fact, while I was writing the post that was commented on, the forecast staff at the Tucson office had recovered from the early am crises and were amending the morning forecast. They were willing to amend, probably since the window view was obviously different from the forecast, and tackle all the onerous grid-modification work required of a first period forecast change. Kudos to them!

But, I do have a much longer-term concern about weather conditions and the first period forecast, or short-term forecast or whatever, being obviously out of sync. I have observed this situation far too often, in far too many places, and in far too many kinds of weather situation not to feel very bothered about the overall situation.

"Furthermore, even if the NWS did update the forecast, many media outlets would continue to read the old forecast. They don't check for updates every time it is read."

This isn't a generic aspect of the media. One thing that has disturbed me deeply over the years is to listen to media ridicule the NWS because a forecast has obviously gone awry, as per: "That's the forecast! Don't those guys have a window over there?" Heard on the radio in Norman, OK, on a morning when the forecast was for sunny but the skies were heavily overcast.

"You are worrying about things that simply don't matter when there is actual life threatening flooding occurring. I fail to see how your commentary on this matter is at all productive?"

I agree again, but think that the NWS offices should make it very clear to its customers when the focus has shifted away from the standard routine, and I think NWS management should support its line staff to decide when routine procedures and products should be dropped temporarily, as per my thoughts above.

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