Saturday, October 29, 2016

National Weather Service - Increase In Severe Events Forcing Changes

Jack Diebolt sent a link to an article in a Palm Beach (Florida) newspaper that appeared last Sunday. The headline is paraphrased slightly above. I am just going to share parts of article here (although I added a bit of highlighting) and will comment some later. I have not been aware of this attempt, but some readers are likely more informed than I.
A Herculean overhaul of the nearly 150-year-old National Weather Service is raising hackles as talk of moving local forecasting hubs, cutting office hours and shuffling meteorological duties moves forward.
The revamp, no small feat for an organization that just this year was able to incorporate lower-case letters into forecast discussions, is aimed at saving lives during such extreme weather events as hurricanes, according to administrators of the 5,000-employee service.

During a Friday presentation of possible changes, NWS Director Louis W. Uccellini and Deputy Director Laura Furgione emphasized that none of the 122 local forecasting offices will be closed, but the service’s “evolution” could include:

• Reducing staff at some offices while increasing it at others depending on weather events or population, including bolstering some offices during tourist season.

• Moving offices so they are closer to emergency operations centers and reducing office hours so some sites are no longer 24/7.

• Using more automated systems, such as to launch the twice-daily weather balloons that sample upper atmospheric conditions.

• Shifting some forecasting duties to regional offices or national hubs so that local meteorologists can work more closely with emergency managers and municipal officials.

“This is about our cookie-cutter structure and getting away from the one-size-fits-all model so that our resources will be located where they need to be,” Furgione said. “All of our offices are manned 24/7 even when our partners don’t need us there and the weather is not demanding.”

Uccellini and Furgione downplayed concerns [voiced by the NWS Employees Union], saying local offices would still be able to provide their own expertise, but could be relieved of the so-called “grid” forecasts that use variables such as temperature, wind and dew point to come up with a final forecast.

“If forecasters are locked in to producing grids, it takes away from them interacting with local officials making decisions on the ground,” Uccellini said.

1 comment:

  1. "...“If forecasters are locked in to producing grids, it takes away from them interacting with local officials making decisions on the ground,” Uccellini said..."

    This hits on an issue I raised when the NWS first began producing grids. Creating the grids took so much time that there was little left over to actually analyze the current weather—and certainly not enought to evaluate the evolution of the weather. Allowing the grids to be created elsewhere—and locally modified, if necessary—always seemed more sensible.

    John Henz nailed it with his comments: the local office does 0-48 hour forecast. Days3-INF are done regionally or nationally.

    But not staffing NWS offices 24/7/365 is folly. What if severe weather develops unexpectedly during a period when it is not staffed? And what if there is significant severe weather elsewhere so that staffing cannot be reprogrammed?

    It's almost as if the NWS is setting up a straw man so that Congress can knock it down—and then saying they tried their best to modernize. But that's a foolish approach—because, as we know, sometimes Congress will accept the straw man!