In recent weeks, a bill was introduced in a subcommittee of Congress ("The National Weather Service Improvement Act" - click to read) that would consolidate the forecasting operations for the United States from the current model of 122 "local" forecast offices to 6 "regional hubs."
Within the meteorological community (and not just at the NWS level), the outcry was immediate, including the NWS Employee's Organization, the broadcast community, and many others. Also outside the weather world, such as the emergency management spectrum (specifically the International Association of Emergency Managers), the pushback was also loud and clear. The chief complaints were that removing the forecasters from their local areas of responsibility would reduce forecast accuracy due to knowledge about local effects within an area being dispersed; that the local "touch" would be lost in areas such as collaboration with emergency management and response, local education outreach, and general relationship-building that takes place at the local level; and of course, the expected residual impact of the loss of hundreds or perhaps thousands of good meteorology jobs currently filled by experienced forecasters.
On the supporter's side, consolidation meant more collaboration between forecasters that are currently subdivided into their smaller areas of responsibility and more efficient (and thus lower cost) operations.
In fact, the response was strong enough that within just a few days the bill was stated to be amended to remove the consolidation in favor of a mandate that the NWS assess its severe weather watch and warning system to ensure that the public responds effectively to severe weather threats. Within five years of bill passage, the NWS, after careful evaluation and survey of users, would be required to have a new system of alerting the public in place.
On Wednesday night, July 1, at 7:00pm, MemphisWeather.net will host a panel discussion via Google Hangout on the implications of the recent Congressional action, the role and responsibilities of the NWS today, what they should look like in the future to most capably serve the public, and how the broadcast and private sectors can best partner with the NWS to assist in fulfilling their mission to protect life and property. Included in the discussion will be a conversation around the current watch/warning system and what changes might be proposed that would raise the level of awareness, and response, by the public to severe weather (convective, winter, tropical, and so on).
Panelists are being finalized but are expected to include NWS-Norman (OKC) Warning Coordination Meteorologist Rick Smith, WREG-TV broadcast meteorologist Austen Onek, Mississippi State University Meteorology graduate student and future NWS meteorologist William Churchill (representing the future of the NWS), and weather enthusiast and frequent MWN Hangout guest John Maddox (representing the general public voice). MWN meteorologist Erik Proseus will host the discussion.
We hope you will join us on Wednesday night for a great discussion on "The National Weather Service - In 2015 and Beyond." There will be an opportunity for you to ask questions as well, including on the MWN Hangout page linked below, as well as on the Google+ event page . Watch our social media channels for details on how you can participate!
This event will be broadcast on the MWN Hangout page or can be viewed below on Wednesday night:
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