27 August 2011

"Fox News Editorial - Do We Really Need A National Weather Service?"


I was directed to this link by a fellow storm chaser tonight. It is an editorial written by a couple bloggers within the Fox News organization. At first look it made me roll my eyes, after reading it I was dry heaving. The information in this piece is unfortunately flawed. Whether it is CNN, MSNBC, Fox News, ABC, regardless of who it is; any idea to bash or cut the NWS is purely fueled on misinformation. The main point of this article is the endorsing of the private sector over the government based NWS. One of the lines in the piece states that " Although it might sound outrageous, the truth is that the National Hurricane Center and its parent agency, the National Weather Service, are relics from America’s past that have actually outlived their usefulness." This in fact does sound outrageous. One thing I have learned is that if someone warns it sounds outrageous, it usually is. I will say though, I bet the hundreds of thousands that get their news from local T.V. stations feel the information is useful. Want to know why? Because I am a member of NWSChat and can talk with the NWS in a private chat. Who is in this chat with me? Emergency managers, other NWS employers, and...... get ready for it...... the NEWS MEDIA. Now... if the NWS wasn't useful, why are some of the news agencies supporting this biased editorial constantly in the chat getting this unnecessary information?

Before I go any further I want to point out this rant is slightly in favor of the NWS, but not about bashing the private sector. In fact I think it is great we have both. One appeals to the public and one favors industries, corporations, and high stake events. The article states that "Private weather services do exist, and unsurprisingly, they are better than the NWS. When Hurricane Katrina hit New Orleans in 2005, the National Weather Service was twelve hours behind AccuWeather in predicting that New Orleans would be affected. Unlike the NWS, AccuWeather provides precise hour-by-hour storm predictions, one of the reasons private industry supports them." This may be true... but as shown by THIS PICTURE... the areas affected are grossly inaccurate. This in fact doesn't even show New Orleans being effected.

Truth is the private sector uses plenty of NWS products, models, and data for their own forecasts. Is it possible that Accuweather correctly forecasted Irene? I am not sure, I don't follow Accuweather. All this article does though is make Accuweather (involved or not) and Fox News look bad. Many will say that this was not an "official" article by Fox News.... that means nothing to me. It is posted on their site for all to read and has the "Fox News" logo on top. It would be the same if I let someone post a profanity, sexist, racist laced rant on my blog, but then say "I didn't write it." Many people are going to disassociate themselves with my name and hopefully Fox News name.

The blog also goes on to state many errors and inaccuracies the NWS has made over the last several years. If you can find me a weather service or forecast agency that can accurately (hell even 90%, 80%!) predict the weather day in and day out then I will put all my stock in that company. Yes... the NWS makes mistakes. Yes... the private sector makes mistakes. In a day in age where national disasters are CURRENTLY on going ... writing a bad piece just because your parent news organization over-hyped a nonevent is just bad taste.

"NWS claims to spread information, but when the topic of budget cuts came up earlier this year, all they spread was fear. “There is a very heightened risk for loss of life if these cuts go through,” NWS forecasters said, “The inability for warnings to be disseminated to the public, whether due to staffing inadequacies, radar maintenance problems or weather radio transmitter difficulties, would be disastrous.”

"Disastrous? The $126 million in cuts would still have left the Service with a larger budget than it had a decade ago. The massive bloat in government should not get a pass just because it’s wrapped in good-of-the-community clothing. NWS services can and are better provided by the private sector. Americans will invest in weather forecasting because if there is one thing we can be certain of, people will want to protect their property and their lives." Closing argument from the editorial.

I pose this question.... how many people out there are willing to dish out money for private forecasts when roughly 300 of the 365 days of the year will be tranquil? I guess my point is, who is going to pay money for someone to tell them that next 4 days are going to be sunny? Some will argue that we are paying for the NWS through our tax dollars so then point becomes moot and it all boils down to who do you feel is more accurate? Can you imagine having the Jackson, MS or Birmingham, AL office closed in the month of April in 2011? It was rumored that Little Rock would be the one that would be closed, but point is can you imagine any additional office having to pick up the work load of another CWFA during a severe weather outbreak? At times tornadoes slip through the cracks in outbreak situations.... now increase the work load and decrease the staff and see how that stacks up. Are the news media all going to pay the private sector for their information? I guarantee 70% of broadcast mets out there depend solely on information provided by the aforementioned NWSChat.The system isn't broke. Singling out the NWS, fire service, police, etc for budget cuts isn't the answer. What is more important... money saved? or lives lost?

I would challenge the country to go one full year without the weather service.... if it is a success I will open mouth and insert foot. Without the weather service, where else will many of these brilliant news writers create their hype from?

1 comment:

  1. What is funny is that I would guess most of the money spent on the NWS is to fund radars and satellites (just a guess). Obviously the third parties use those like crazy. I will admit that I think the NWS got a little behind the times in regards to technology, but they are making huge strides with their video forecasts, text alerts, NWSChat, etc. That is not to mention how accurate the warnings, lead time, and forecasts are getting. Are third parties useful, heck yeah, but to say the NWS should be cut is ignorant in my opinion.