Improved Weather and Climate Services for the Nation:

A Blueprint for Leadership

Executive Summary

America's Dependence on Weather and Climate Services is Deepening

Current Challenges

Recommended Actions

    To overcome these shortcomings and provide essential weather and climate services in future years, the incoming administration should work with the Congress to take the following immediate steps:

  1. Infrastructure Investment. Accelerate the current rate of investment in infrastructure for vital weather and climate monitoring and prediction. This investment is needed both to fully exploit new technologies and to correct years of budget attrition. Additional funds would pay for developing and launching new meteorological satellite instruments and platforms, refurbishing the national radar network, rebuilding forecast and research centers, and communicating and disseminating data and products to the general public and the private sector.

  2. Research Investment. Augment weather and climate R&D and facilitate more rapid transfer into products and services. The present rate of advance in R&D is inadequate, and developments need to be incorporated more rapidly into services. Although forecast skill by various measures has been improving (by a few percent per year), with resultant economic benefits, the fast pace of population growth and increasing economic vulnerability have outstripped these modest gains. As a result, weather and climate losses continue to rise disproportionately. Currently, there aren't enough funds, equipment, or people to pursue many promising avenues of improvement. This problem is by no means unique to the atmospheric sciences. Bipartisan plans to double the national investment in R&D over the next five years should explicitly include support for weather and climate research currently conducted in NSF, NASA, NOAA, DOE, and DOD.

  3. Policy. Examine policies that affect weather and climate services and strengthen the international commitment to free and open exchange of meteorological data. Policies must be examined to ensure that U.S. agencies' activities are fully coordinated and that the United States works closely with other nations to optimize international investment in weather and climate services. Of special concern is the commitment to free and open exchange of meteorological data internationally. In recent years, this vital historical commitment has been compromised by differing national approaches to internal public-private partnerships. Significant voids in data from any one country quickly compromise forecast skill for all the rest.

  4. Education. Increase the emphasis on meteorological education in public schools. Americans are captivated by news of weather and climate. The fortunes of local newscasts often hinge on the quality of their weather broadcasts; viewers rely on up-to-the- minute reports of extreme weather activity nationwide. Currently, however, we are failing to capitalize on this interest. By placing more emphasis on weather and climate curricula, educational institutions at all levels could harness such enthusiasm—strengthening the national debate on atmospheric policy issues and maintaining the ranks of meteorological professionals. Meteorology's natural appeal might also promote interest in science and engineering more broadly among young people.

  5. Commission. Establish a National Commission on the Atmosphere. Weather and climate services need significant coordination—among nations, between government agencies, and with private enterprise and academia. Such coordination requires high-level, sustained leadership. The incoming administration should establish a National Commission on the Atmosphere to provide ongoing advice to the executive branch and the Congress on how best to achieve the goals mentioned. The commission should encompass all stakeholders—government, end users, commercial service providers, the university community, the media, and relevant nongovernmental organizations.

    America's fortunes—our safety and security, our economy, and our ecosystems and environment—are weather and climate sensitive to a significant degree. Though we face a daunting array of hazards and are affected by weather and climate in myriad, complex ways, we have unprecedented technological means for coping with future events, provided we are guided by accurate and timely forecasts. By making needed investments in the atmospheric enterprise we can ensure our prosperity for years to come.

Title photo: Hurricane Mitch, courtesy of NOAA
©2001University Corporation for Atmospheric Research
and American Meteorological Society.

American Meteorological Society

University Corporation for Atmospheric Research

UCAR > Communications > Awareness > 2001 > Weather Search

Prepared for the Web by Jacque Marshall