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Does Government Weather Forecasting Endanger Lives?
Fox News ^ | 8/22/07 | John Lott

Posted on 08/22/2007 7:05:42 AM PDT by NY.SS-Bar9

As Hurricane Dean roars through the Gulf of Mexico, it reminds everyone how dangerous the weather can be. But it should also remind everyone how poorly the National Hurricane Center has been at predicting storms.

Despite dire predictions from the National Hurricane Center, no hurricanes hit the U.S. last year. This year they are again predicting as many as 10 hurricanes, up to five of them hitting the U.S. Fortunately, Dean also seems most likely to miss us.

All this raises a question: Is the government’s free weather prediction service so bad that it is worth paying for private companies to predict the weather?

(Excerpt) Read more at foxnews.com ...


TOPICS: Business/Economy; Government
KEYWORDS: economics; federalism; johnlott; waste; weather
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1 posted on 08/22/2007 7:05:43 AM PDT by NY.SS-Bar9
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To: NY.SS-Bar9

No. What a stupid article.


2 posted on 08/22/2007 7:06:08 AM PDT by r9etb
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To: NY.SS-Bar9

I don’t know but the weather channel is pretty pathetic about predicting local weather. I was 10 minutes into a strong storm this morning before the warning for my area was given.


3 posted on 08/22/2007 7:08:08 AM PDT by cripplecreek (Greed is NOT a conservative ideal.)
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To: NY.SS-Bar9

No, wreckless reporting from the eye of the hurricane endangers lives.


4 posted on 08/22/2007 7:08:36 AM PDT by Yo-Yo (USAF, TAC, 12th AF, 366 TFW, 366 MG, 366 CRS, Mtn Home AFB, 1978-81)
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To: NY.SS-Bar9

Maybe they need to get out of the prediction service business and just report the weather.

Why do we want a private business to get blame and liability for this.

Besides, didn’t the farmers almanac already do this?


5 posted on 08/22/2007 7:10:42 AM PDT by edcoil (Reality doesn't say much - doesn't need too)
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To: NY.SS-Bar9
I have noticed that weather alerts here are usually hysterical for no reason. For example, several times we have a SEVERE WEATHER ALERT posted and when you read it, a 10 degree drop in temperatures is all that is predicted. Once this summer, the entire state of Iowa was under a STAGNATION ALERT. It ended at the borders of the state in each direction. I guess the wind was not blowing.

In my opinion, severe weather alerts should only be issued if there is a real danger. The frequency of these alerts caused them to be ignore.

6 posted on 08/22/2007 7:15:19 AM PDT by w1andsodidwe
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To: NY.SS-Bar9

The hype comes from privately owned weather services (e.g. TWC) hawking for advertising. The more they stir doom, the more people will tune in.


7 posted on 08/22/2007 7:16:47 AM PDT by NautiNurse (McClatchy News report: Half the nation's families earn below the median family income)
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To: NY.SS-Bar9
It is one of the few federal agencies that is cost effective and does a fairly good job!
8 posted on 08/22/2007 7:19:59 AM PDT by HuntsvilleTxVeteran (Remember the Alamo, Goliad and WACO, It is Time for a new San Jacinto)
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To: NY.SS-Bar9
At one point Google News had Dean as a ‘catastrophic’ level 5 hurricane. I hit refresh and it was a category 1.
9 posted on 08/22/2007 7:26:12 AM PDT by kinoxi
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To: NY.SS-Bar9

Yes,and
no.


10 posted on 08/22/2007 7:26:35 AM PDT by larryjohnson (USAF(Ret))
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To: NY.SS-Bar9
Lott's usually on target, but he misses here.

Despite dire predictions from the National Hurricane Center, no hurricanes hit the U.S. last year. This year they are again predicting as many as 10 hurricanes, up to five of them hitting the U.S.

First of all, I don't see ANY seasonal hurricane forecast predicting the number of hits - instead, they usually predict a statistical chance of a given part of the coast getting hit.

Second, you can have a very active hurricane season and have no hits on the US, and vice versa - Andrew happened during an otherwise slow year.

Third, forecasts are just that - forecasts. Last year, there was an unexpected early el Nino.

And all I see from Accuweather is hype.

11 posted on 08/22/2007 7:29:35 AM PDT by dirtboy (Impeach Chertoff and Gonzales. We can't wait until 2009 for them to be gone.)
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To: kinoxi
At one point Google News had Dean as a ‘catastrophic’ level 5 hurricane. I hit refresh and it was a category 1.

Going over the Yucatan will do that to a hurricane.

12 posted on 08/22/2007 7:30:07 AM PDT by dirtboy (Impeach Chertoff and Gonzales. We can't wait until 2009 for them to be gone.)
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To: NY.SS-Bar9

The private weather services (Accu-Weather and TWC) get all their data from NOAA/NWS. They simply do not have the resources to gather the data (satellites, Cray computers etc); they just put their own predictions together. TWC is mainly entertainment now. IMHO, the data gathering and forecast probality should be left to NOAA/NWS. Ever notice that they never say it WILL rain, rather that it MIGHT rain ....

Another note - Ole ex-Senator Ric Santorum wanted to privatize (Accu Weather is in State College PA). Groups like BOAT US were vehemently opposed to this and contributed to his opponent. Lots of boaters could give a rat’s a!! about abortion but wanted to keep the free non-commercial weather radio.


13 posted on 08/22/2007 7:36:46 AM PDT by Seajay (Ordem e Progresso)
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To: NY.SS-Bar9
Yeah sure, the media sells hype, but as more and more people move the coastal areas, it is necessary.

Those of us that grew up on the coast understand hurricane prep starts June 1st.

14 posted on 08/22/2007 7:37:47 AM PDT by SouthTexas
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To: NY.SS-Bar9

I followed the entire history of Dean from a disturbance off the coast of Africa to it’s current status. The predictions, both government and private, had Dean going just about everywhere except where it eventually went, from out to sea in the Atlantic, up the East Coast, into the Carolinas, Miami, the Keys, Hispanola, and the Gulf Coast. Predicting the course of a hurricane is not easy, and if this writer thinks he can do better, then let’s see him make his own predictions and see how accurate he is. If he prefers only to bitch about other people’s predictions, he can just STFU.


15 posted on 08/22/2007 7:37:47 AM PDT by Fresh Wind
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To: NY.SS-Bar9

John Lott should stick to things he knows about.


16 posted on 08/22/2007 7:44:39 AM PDT by Redbob (WWJBD - "What would Jack Bauer Do?")
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To: dirtboy

The question is:

Does the government lower the quality of forecasts by competing in a market better served by private enterprise?


17 posted on 08/22/2007 7:46:47 AM PDT by NY.SS-Bar9 (DR #1692)
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To: NY.SS-Bar9
Does the government lower the quality of forecasts by competing in a market better served by private enterprise?

I don't see how this can be proven, given that weather forecasting itself is highly error-prone, so how do you discern poor quality due to government forecast from poor quality due to the inherent nature of the field itself? I've seen nothing from Accuweather that makes me think they are a marked improvement over the NWS.

18 posted on 08/22/2007 7:53:56 AM PDT by dirtboy (Impeach Chertoff and Gonzales. We can't wait until 2009 for them to be gone.)
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To: cripplecreek
I don’t know but the weather channel is pretty pathetic about predicting local weather. I was 10 minutes into a strong storm this morning before the warning for my area was given.

The weather channel gets the local forecast from the National Weather Service. Any alerts/warnings are put out by NWS. The Weather Channel only delivers the message - they don't create the alert/warning.

19 posted on 08/22/2007 7:54:43 AM PDT by bkwells (Liberals=Hypocrites)
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To: NautiNurse
The hype comes from privately owned weather services (e.g. TWC) hawking for advertising. The more they stir doom, the more people will tune in.

Is it possible that NOAA, with 800+ million in tax dollars, forces TWC and others to rely on a more sensational style to compete?

20 posted on 08/22/2007 7:55:39 AM PDT by NY.SS-Bar9 (DR #1692)
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To: NY.SS-Bar9
Who says there aren't moron libs at Fox News. This paragraph says it all...

A more serious problem is that the National Weather Service gives away its services for free. In 2004, the National Weather Service began shelving a 1991 policy that had barred the weather agency from offering services that private industry could provide. The Weather Service also now offers much of its data on the internet for free. With an $882 million budget for 2007, the National Weather Service is certainly not free...

Uh.... our TAXES pay for this service, MORON!!! Perhaps they're not the best, but to give credit where credit is due, they were quite accurate predicting the path of Dean. I'm surprised they do all that they do on only $882 million. That's a bargain, IMHO...
21 posted on 08/22/2007 7:58:04 AM PDT by rock_lobsta (Doing my part to warm up the planet... Because Bikinis Beat Burkas!)
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To: rock_lobsta

http://www.nhc.noaa.gov/archive/2007/graphics/al04/loop_5W.shtml


22 posted on 08/22/2007 8:03:16 AM PDT by Fresh Wind
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To: NY.SS-Bar9
Is it possible that NOAA, with 800+ million in tax dollars, forces TWC and others to rely on a more sensational style to compete?

I don't see NOAA forcing TWC to start lame-assed personality-driven programs such as the two twits on at 8pm and that even lamer weekend talk-show format. TWC did fine as long as it reported hard weather news. But some Clintonista-type hack runs the network now and thinks they can draw viewers by dragging it into liberal nitwit land.

23 posted on 08/22/2007 8:05:33 AM PDT by dirtboy (Impeach Chertoff and Gonzales. We can't wait until 2009 for them to be gone.)
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To: NY.SS-Bar9
Does Government Weather Forecasting Endanger Lives?

How stupid. Next time there's a major hurricane or tornado outbreak or something, they can all just keep quite and see what happens; whether there's a greater loss of life with no warning than with one.

Idiots.

24 posted on 08/22/2007 8:06:23 AM PDT by metmom (Welfare was never meant to be a career choice.)
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To: NautiNurse

I swear, Dean could have gone further south, crossed over Central America, re-emerged in the Pacific and regenerated, and Fox and TWC would still be breathlessly speculating about the potential of Dean hitting Padre Island.


25 posted on 08/22/2007 8:07:49 AM PDT by dirtboy (Impeach Chertoff and Gonzales. We can't wait until 2009 for them to be gone.)
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To: NY.SS-Bar9

Turn it over to NASA with Algore in charge !!!

Problem solved.....sheeesh that was easy to fix.


26 posted on 08/22/2007 8:08:06 AM PDT by Jeffrey_D. (The only thing I love more than my FreeperFriends is my God, Family and Country !!!!)
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To: All
"lame-assed"

"moron libs"

"liberal nitwit"

"stupid"

"wreckless"[SIC]

"Idiots"

Gee... I thought I posted on FR, must have hit DU by mistake judging by the intellectual level of these responses.

27 posted on 08/22/2007 8:19:07 AM PDT by NY.SS-Bar9 (DR #1692)
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To: bkwells

The thing is, I believe that all the data used by the private companies, is collected by the NWS from radiosondes etc. If we’re going to go to private forecasting, someone is going to have to pick up the expense of maintaining the kind of data collection that the NWS does now.

I could see the battles over who *owns* what data and how it’s distributed. Is one company going to own it all and sell it? Are different companies going to own different sections of the country and share? I could see that working really well when there’s money to be made.

I also don’t see that Accuweather or weatherunderground are really any more precise about our weather than the NWS. I listen to the weather radio constantly and have found that they do a pretty good job of forecasting, and a fine job on alerting and keeping track of severe storms in our area.


28 posted on 08/22/2007 8:19:54 AM PDT by metmom (Welfare was never meant to be a career choice.)
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To: rock_lobsta
A more serious problem is that the National Weather Service gives away its services for free.

What a laugh. Someone is actually complaining that the government is giving something away for free? That's a "problem"?

29 posted on 08/22/2007 8:21:45 AM PDT by metmom (Welfare was never meant to be a career choice.)
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To: NY.SS-Bar9
Is it possible that NOAA, with 800+ million in tax dollars, forces TWC and others to rely on a more sensational style to compete?

TWC is not competing with NOAA weather radio. The NWS does not have a television presence. btw--how many private enterprises should be flying into the eye of a hurricane at any given time?

30 posted on 08/22/2007 8:22:25 AM PDT by NautiNurse (McClatchy News report: Half the nation's families earn below the median family income)
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To: NY.SS-Bar9
What a horrific article. Complete nonsense. Meteorology is not an exact science but great strides have been made with increasing forecast accuracy. One of the problems is that the National Weather Service covers very broad areas. Even the local offices have a lot of responsibility and a lot of ground to cover. I'd like to see anyone forecast with PINPOINT accuracy where summertime air-mass thunderstorms are going to develop. Private companies have the luxury of forecasting for a specific time/place and since they are paid to do so, they can invest time/effort into that. NWS simply cannot.

Unfortunately, these aren’t the only problems with the National Weather Service. The service has been accused in the past of withholding government aircraft reconnaissance of hurricanes for up to 11 hours before releasing the information to private companies or the public.

Since when is the government required to release such info to a private company?

I'm reminded of the following paragraph that discussed the difficulties with forecasting the weather:

Imagine a rotating sphere that is 12,800 kilometers (8000 miles) in diameter, has a bumpy surface, is surrounded by a 40-kilometer-deep mixture of different gases whose concentrations vary both spatially and over time, and is heated, along with its surrounding gases, by a nuclear reactor 150 million kilometers (93 million miles) away. Imagine also that this sphere is revolving around the nuclear reactor and that some locations are heated more during one part of the revolution and other locations are heated during another part of the revolution. And imagine that this mixture of gases continually receives inputs from the surface below, generally calmly but sometimes through violent and highly localized injections. Then, imagine that after watching the gaseous mixture, you are expected to predict its state at one location on the sphere one, two, or more days into the future. This is essentially the task encountered day by day by a weather forecaster.

31 posted on 08/22/2007 8:24:22 AM PDT by bkwells (Liberals=Hypocrites)
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To: bkwells
The service has been accused in the past of withholding government aircraft reconnaissance of hurricanes for up to 11 hours before releasing the information to private companies or the public.

They haven't done it in the past several years--if they ever did it at all. Recon data are virtually real-time these days.

I want to know who we should believe when Accuweather reports a storm will strike both Houston and New York, and TWC reports the same storm will strike Miami and New Orleans.

32 posted on 08/22/2007 8:30:23 AM PDT by NautiNurse (McClatchy News report: Half the nation's families earn below the median family income)
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To: metmom
The thing is, I believe that all the data used by the private companies, is collected by the NWS from radiosondes etc. If we’re going to go to private forecasting, someone is going to have to pick up the expense of maintaining the kind of data collection that the NWS does now.

Absolutely! Radiosondes aren't cheap either... about $100 per launch. There are about 1000 reporting stations world-wide that launch them.

I could see the battles over who *owns* what data and how it’s distributed. Is one company going to own it all and sell it? Are different companies going to own different sections of the country and share? I could see that working really well when there’s money to be made.

I think the WMO (World Meteorological Organization) states how the data is handled and disseminated. Of course, if everything is privatized, then that changes everything.

I also don’t see that Accuweather or weatherunderground are really any more precise about our weather than the NWS. I listen to the weather radio constantly and have found that they do a pretty good job of forecasting, and a fine job on alerting and keeping track of severe storms in our area.

Great point. Reason being is that all forecasting agencies (public and private) end up using the same numerical models which are fed by the same data from surface and radiosonde information.

33 posted on 08/22/2007 8:34:29 AM PDT by bkwells (Liberals=Hypocrites)
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To: NautiNurse
I want to know who we should believe when Accuweather reports a storm will strike both Houston and New York, and TWC reports the same storm will strike Miami and New Orleans.

When has this happened? Everyone initially uses the official forecast from the National Hurricane Center. I have never seen TWC deviate from that. I don't follow Accuweather so I can't comment on their service. I do believe that the on-air forecasters may talk about different scenarios that could alter the projected path of the storm, however, if you read the forecast discussions put out by NHC, they address the same issues. TWC only re-hashes info put out by NWS or NHC.

34 posted on 08/22/2007 8:42:26 AM PDT by bkwells (Liberals=Hypocrites)
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To: bkwells

Accuweather is well know for sensationalizing “what if” scenarios that are ludicrous. Such dramatized “possibilities” increase their viewer share when they include large metro areas which may have, at best, a remote probability of minimal effects.


35 posted on 08/22/2007 8:50:17 AM PDT by NautiNurse (McClatchy News report: Half the nation's families earn below the median family income)
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To: NautiNurse

Bingo! IMHO that makes them no different than most other media outlets.


36 posted on 08/22/2007 8:57:00 AM PDT by bkwells (Liberals=Hypocrites)
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To: dirtboy
I've seen nothing from Accuweather that makes me think they are a marked improvement over the NWS.

I can think of one marked improvement: one costs the taxpayers nothing, and the other does.

37 posted on 08/22/2007 9:06:17 AM PDT by Red Boots
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To: Red Boots
I can think of one marked improvement: one costs the taxpayers nothing, and the other does.

The NWC budget is chump change in the federal budget. And unlike many parts of the fedgov, the NWC actually delivers something of considerable value for the tax dollars spent.

As Nauti Nurse noted, do you think a private company would arrange to fly aircraft into a Cat 5 hurricane for critical forecast info?

Unlike much of the fedgov, this ain't broken.

38 posted on 08/22/2007 9:11:06 AM PDT by dirtboy (Impeach Chertoff and Gonzales. We can't wait until 2009 for them to be gone.)
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To: dirtboy
As Nauti Nurse noted, do you think a private company would arrange to fly aircraft into a Cat 5 hurricane for critical forecast info?

Of course they could. Private enterprise can do anything government can do, only cheaper, and often better.It's the same people working in both areas. Being part of a government run business doesn't make them smarter, or more able to come up with good ideas, just less efficient, and on the taxpayers dole.

Freed from constraints, they might come up with way better and even more accurate solutions.

As for it being chump change in the Federal budget, lots of chump change adds up to big money.

39 posted on 08/22/2007 9:27:11 AM PDT by Red Boots
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To: Red Boots
Of course they could. Private enterprise can do anything government can do, only cheaper, and often better.It's the same people working in both areas. Being part of a government run business doesn't make them smarter, or more able to come up with good ideas, just less efficient, and on the taxpayers dole.

Sorry, but I don't see it happening. I don't see a business model where a company will fly into a hurricane to get data. How would they make a profit from that? Can they charge coastal residents for hurricane forecasts? Or do you have them function as subcontractors for the government?

40 posted on 08/22/2007 9:55:49 AM PDT by dirtboy (Impeach Chertoff and Gonzales. We can't wait until 2009 for them to be gone.)
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To: NautiNurse; bkwells

Accuweather gets a lot of face time on Fox News.

Could it also be a coincidence that they get 2 very positive mentions in the first 5 paragraphs?

I didn’t think so, either.


41 posted on 08/22/2007 12:23:12 PM PDT by rock_lobsta (Doing my part to warm up the planet... Because Bikinis Beat Burkas!)
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To: Red Boots
How many aircraft can safely fly into the eye of a hurricane simultaneously? Who would oversee air traffic control, and what should we do when two aircraft from competing companies produce significantly different data on storm direction and speed?

Should state and local governments contract with one or two or five companies to assess and enact emergency operations plans?

I see my taxes going from one pocket to another.

42 posted on 08/22/2007 5:06:51 PM PDT by NautiNurse (McClatchy News report: Half the nation's families earn below the median family income)
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To: rock_lobsta

There is no conspiracy here. I wrote the piece. Fox News did not tell me to include anything in the piece.


43 posted on 08/22/2007 5:32:19 PM PDT by JohnRLott
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To: dirtboy

If you look at Forecast Watch or Forecast Advisor, you will see quite detailed evidence that is more than anecdotal that the private companies do much better the government NWS. Don’t these poor statistics concern you?

Why are people paying for a service that is provided for free by the government? Presumably because they think that they are getting a better job done.

This is not a deep argument. The question is one of incentives. If your company would get the same amount of money no matter what job that it did, how hard would you all do in trying to please customers? Is that a particularly surprising result? If the company gave away its product for free, how much poorer would its product have to be before people would pay for another competing product? Those are the only two major points that the article is making.


44 posted on 08/22/2007 5:44:02 PM PDT by JohnRLott
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To: dirtboy

How can they make a profit from forecasting weather? Bad weather has a huge impact on people, particularly something like a hurricane. There is a lot at stake so why don’t you think that companies and various media would pay a lot for weather forecasting?

Take something else that is expensive, indeed much more expensive. Is there a problem with weather satellites? They may cost $10 million plus, but so do communication satellites. How is it that private companies can provide communication satellites?


45 posted on 08/22/2007 5:44:44 PM PDT by JohnRLott
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To: JohnRLott
Welcome to FreeRepublic. I appreciate that you have taken the time to address some of the comments in response to your article. I look forward to your feedback regarding my questions and comments.

Thanks in advance.

46 posted on 08/22/2007 6:26:20 PM PDT by NautiNurse (McClatchy News report: Half the nation's families earn below the median family income)
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To: NautiNurse

Thank you. To answer your question, I think that it is much more difficult to scare people with weather predictions than in other types of stories because whether their predictions are right or wrong are easily measured. Accuracy in regular news stories is much more difficult to measure. Forecast Watch or Forecast Advisor are two excellent examples of this type of measurement.


47 posted on 08/22/2007 10:27:12 PM PDT by JohnRLott
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To: JohnRLott
This is not a deep argument. The question is one of incentives.

Forecast Watch is also trying to sell weather information. So from the start, they have at least an incentive to tear down a competitor who is doing it for free. I'd have to do a fairly detailed analysis of their methodology.

How can they make a profit from forecasting weather?

I asked how a business model would be profitable from flying into a hurricane. Can you imagine the liability insurance issues, compared to the government, which just sends in the military?

48 posted on 08/23/2007 4:39:33 AM PDT by dirtboy (Impeach Chertoff and Gonzales. We can't wait until 2009 for them to be gone.)
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To: JohnRLott
If the company gave away its product for free, how much poorer would its product have to be before people would pay for another competing product?

As I recall, AccuWeather had Rick Santorum lobbying to diminish the role of the NWS in forecasting. So apparently market forces aren't quite enough to nudge customers in their direction - apparently enough people are satisfied with what they currently get for with their tax dollars.

49 posted on 08/23/2007 4:41:14 AM PDT by dirtboy (Impeach Chertoff and Gonzales. We can't wait until 2009 for them to be gone.)
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To: JohnRLott
I appreciate your response. As a small business owner, I am a great proponent of private enterprise. While I am entirely comfortable with private companies providing my daily radar needs, I view hurricane forecasting on the order of national defense.

As an average citizen, my daily weather interest lies in a general need to know for planning: e.g. watering the potted plants, or grabbing a rain jacket. I know that pleasure boating is best accomplished in the morning during summer, as t-storms are more likely to crop up in the afternoon. Living in the lightning capital of the U.S., this is how most of us plan outdoor activities.

I use internet radar access to fine tune my schedule around daily weather events. Detailed long range and short range radar are part of my daily routine. Anyone who can provide the most clear radar has my support. Currently, I use weatherunderground as a paid member.

Living in the lightning capital of the U.S. also means I am in hurricane territory. Hurricanes are the most labor and budget intensive weather events I experience because I own and live on waterfront property.

When a hurricane enters the Gulf of Mexico, I could boast 98% accuracy if I predict a storm will make landfall between Brownsville TX and Key West FL. If I recall correctly, the early Accuweather prediction for Katrina landfall was between Houston and Tampa. I would hardly call that a win for Accuweather. I saw an Accuweather graphic predicting the possibility of hurricanes from Browsnville to New England for the 2006 hurricane season--another case where Accuweather bragging rights are misplaced. Disaster planning and emergency ops depend upon more accurate and detailed information. The NHC is accurate enough for my needs in hurricane alley. Our lives and property are at stake. I say no to the likes of Accuweather.

50 posted on 08/23/2007 6:56:27 AM PDT by NautiNurse (McClatchy News report: Half the nation's families earn below the median family income)
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