Friday, March 3, 2017

The Trump Administration Proposes Large Cuts to U.S. Weather Prediction

Today, the Trump Administrator proposed major cuts to NOAA and the National Weather Service that would greatly weaken U.S. weather prediction capabilities.

The proposed cuts (described here) are huge and would cripple the ability of the National Weather Service to improve the quality of weather predictions provided to the American people.

Cuts include:

1.  A half-billion dollar reduction in NOAA's satellite program run by National Environmental Satellite, Data and Information Service (NESDIS).

Weather satellite's provide 95% of the information used to initialize weather prediction models and such a large cut would result in the loss of major satellite observing systems.  Weather prediction skill would decline.

2.  A 26% (126 million) cut in the Office of Atmospheric Research (OAR)

OAR is responsible for the development of the next generation of weather prediction models and the technologies underlying U.S. operational weather forecasting.   Such a large cut would greatly undermine current activities to replace the problematic current generation of U.S. global models.  It would undermine the development of new approaches to data assimilation of observational data. And much more.


3.   The National Weather Service would be hit by a 5% cut plus additional cuts necessary for NOAA (the parent of the NWS) to cut a total of 17%.

Thus, total NWS cuts would probably be in the range of 5-15%.   Even a 5% cut would result in the loss of at least one forecaster per NWS office (like Seattle, Portland, or Spokane).   Many of the NWS offices are undermanned and understaffed at this point, so further cuts would be very difficult.   Less forecasters would result in reduced forecast quality and reduced interactions with local communities.

4.  NOAA and the NWS would sharply reduce extramural funding, including funding of applicable university research.  

Extramural funding is a very cost-effective approach for the NOAA/NWS to tap the creative energies and innovations coming out of the academic community.  It also supports the training of the next generation of forecasters and scientists.   The loss of extramural support will cripple the ability of NOAA/NWS to innovate and to improve U.S. weather prediction


The Trump administration has been vocal in its opposition of climate research and attempts for mitigation of global warming.   In the proposed cuts, they have taken the knife and harmed the wrong target:  U.S. weather prediction operations and research.

NOAA's satellites and numerical weather prediction  is key infrastructure for the United States and a foundation of U.S. economic strength  and protection of American lives.  It needs more resources, not less.

Ironically, as shown below, red states suffer more from severe weather than blue states (e.g., hurricanes, severe thunderstorms), so the proposed cuts will preferentially hurt Trump's own supporters.


It is also ironic that an administration that claims to want to "make American great, again" is taking actions that will make U.S. weather prediction fourth rate.  They are undermining the interests of the American people, undermining public safety and our economy, much of which is weather dependent.


It is time to email or contact our congressional representatives, to encourage them to stop this
destructive plan.

45 comments:

Chris Mc said...

Who forecasts for our military? What resources do they use? Is the information available to local weather professionals in time to be useful?

Can't blame the Trump for cutting funding.. he's attempting to Ballance the most 'f'ed budget in the world.. of course this is assuming the agencies you listed are redundant to our militaries.. who must have excellent forecasting information.

Mike Silva said...

Conservatives: People so sure climate change doesn't exist, they have to kill data collection to be sure.

Rod said...

Really, Cliff, what did you expect?

John Marshall said...

This was completely expected given the people around Trump.

He needs the extra funds to buy really important stuff like more nuclear weapons. The roughly 4,000 nuclear weapons in our inventory are not nearly enough to oppose the handful of deliverable nukes that the North Koreans might someday have.

I mean, at the moment, the most we can destroy are a few thousand cities along with a few thousand more military installations. That's not nearly enough.

Besides, we can all look out the window and see the weather.

Conservative thinking at its best. Preparing for the future (that I don't want to live in).

Placeholder said...

Politically speaking, Trump owes the West Coast absolutely nothing.

Abe Jacobson said...


Vodka glasses are being raised in the Kremlin, as Trump takes another slice out of American strength.

gregg daugherty said...

I guess this is related, I've long wondered (I guess in theory only)....why don't we simply use the Euro models? That is, often you and others will comment on how good they are, and they seem to be readily available to us. I know our country cannot go without a weather service, but this seems to be a bit of a "why build" when you can "buy" (or use another service). Comment?

Tom said...

The military uses the same satellites as the National Weather Service, and relies on academic research to improve forecasting capabilities.

The military's mission does not include warning people in Iowa about tornados, which is why we need skilled forecasters in the NWS.

Frank Blau said...

"Politically speaking, Trump owes the West Coast absolutely nothing."

Yeah because he's only president of the people that voted for him.

Sulla said...

From a previous comment: "Politically speaking, Trump owes the West Coast absolutely nothing."
Wow, just wow. That has to be one of the most inane comments I have read on here. So, does weather forecasting ability only impact areas that did not vote for Trump? Are those tornadoes in deep red Oklahoma going to play nice? Not to mention the fact that when you're President that's for all 50 states, some of which did not vote for you. Setting a national policy to "stick it" to areas that did not vote for you sounds like great policy (sarcasm off).

Johann von Puyallup said...

If the information and data crunching is valuable, maybe getting the federal government out of it would open the way for private businesses to do the work. It doesn't take too much imagination to see how it could be a great business plan.

Using the government to solve this problem opens gets us two thing:
1. A neurotic blueprint and a glacial execution becoming obsolete as it advances by fits and starts according to the vagaries of political will.
2. A bad value for the dollars spent. Whatever the government touches becomes more expensive with an only inconsistent improvement in quality. Has the flood of cheap college loans from the government increased or decreased the cost of education? Is there another explanation for double digit growth in costs for decades? Are the graduates of the 2015 better or worse than their 1975 counterparts? If the government had mandated 'free' smartphones in 2012, would they be more or less advanced than they are today? More or less expensive?

If the Euro model is better, what are they going to do next to improve? Will we be able to buy a superior product after their next upgrade?

andy gladish said...

Since modern nations don't depend on accurate forecasting information.
Heck, you don't need it to mine more coal, now do you?

Eric Blair said...

For all of you couch - fainters and pearl - clutchers, it's called a negotiating stance. That's what Trump does, it's part and parcel of his entire MO. He wants every Federal agency to justify their personnel numbers and overall efficacy. This is step one of an enormous infrastructure plan, and if the people in charge make their case effectively and don't add in all of the additional waste and political lackeys in their budgetary requests, they'll get their money, and perhaps a hell of a lot more. If we had actual adults in charge of our infrastructure these days, the Oroville Dam wouldn't be teetering on a man - made catastrophe. This correction is long overdue.

Why is this so hard for folks to understand? Instead of screeching to the heavens at least make a modicum of effort to figure out what's going on.

terry said...

The Euro uses US Satellite input, does it not? Cuts to the satellite program will hurt the quality of that model.

Unknown said...

Agree with all of this. I think we have already arrived at a point where complaining loudly is no longer sufficient.

Steven Miller said...

Of course this is not a surprise, and of course it is very damaging to the nation on many levels. The question is, when will we have arrived at a point where complaining loudly about it is no longer sufficient action? What can we do to change this course of this destructive path? Or, are we too late?

Jon Kahrs said...

Eric,

I think this administration has made it clear that none of what they say is a negotiating stance. And since this administration has shown no interest or respect for science, I see no reason why people should have faith that this administration can competently evaluate scientific endeavors. I think people understand this administration perfectly well thank you.

Mark said...

Really? Now you complain. There was a Trump ad on the right side of your blog during the whole election campaign.

If you want Trump to hear your concerns then talk to Bannon and Brietbart. Pitch your reasons in the form of a right wing conspiracy theory filled with hyperbolic lies and half-truths. Be sure to add that global warming is a hoax perpetrated by the Chinese to undercut American Business and use small words like: bad, bigly, great, fake and sad. Remember, Trump has a limited understanding of weather. He could not comprehend that it rained during his inauguration speech.

Mark Anderson said...

Exactly right. And if anyone can do it...

William said...

Probably too much pork already in the NOAA barrel. NOAA needs to justify programs, overall costs, and inevitable cost overruns. Time to trim the fat!

mmjustus said...

The thing is, there apparently isn't anything we can do to stop all of this (and the cuts to weather forecasting are barely the tip of the iceberg) besides protest, contact our congresscritters, and do our best to get out the vote in 2018.

If anybody has any *useful*, *practical* *effective* ways for all of us appalled "little people" to stop all of this *before* 2018, I for one would love to hear them.

DJC said...

Two thirds of the federal budget goes to mandatory spending (Medicare, social security, veterans benefits, agriculture etc). The rest goes to pay interest on the debt and discretionary spending. Well over half of the discretionary spending goes to the military. The small amount of discretionary spending that is left goes to transportation, government, housing,and a host of other programs including a tiny fraction to energy and the environment and science.

Cutting NOAA and NWS budgets is purely window dressing by a president who doesn't have the cojones to actually make cuts where they are actually needed in order to balance the budget. Cutting corporate taxes and taxes on the wealthy will also not help. People need to clue in to where their federal tax dollars are being spent. Cutting NOAA and NWS is meaningless in the big budget picture and does more harm than good.

Cocidius said...

I'm an emergency manager and I depend on the National Weather Service to keep the citizens and businesses in my county safe along with making sure that our staff can conduct their important work.

I work in the Northwest but I started my career path in a southern state that routinely experienced tornado's. Rapid and timely forecasts tracking tornado's are the often the difference between life and death in the southern and mid-western states.

Westside guy said...

@Chris Mc - this isn't about balancing the budget, since he's not actually proposing a meaningfully smaller budget. Trump IS, however, proposing a $54 billion increase in military spending, and his stated intent is to pull that money out of other existing programs without touching politically-charged entitlements (many of which he can't touch anyway, while others would result in political suicide and would therefore be DOA in congress). And he can't be straightforward about increasing taxes to cover that spending increase because of where his political support comes from.

The problem is that there are a very few programs which take up the lion's share of the federal budget - basically the various entitlement programs plus military spending. To make any significant increase in military spending without (overtly) increasing taxes, you pretty much have to gut all discretionary spending (support of science, foreign aid, etc.) - and, even then, it won't be enough without also going after some entitlement programs such as Medicaid.

I suspect Trump is about to run into political realities, and the end result will bear very little semblance to his original budget. There will still be significant cuts which many of us won't like, but it won't be anywhere near what he's proposing (although there will be tons of CYA text so he can pretend he did, probably by kicking the can down the road), and there will be significant tax increases which will be labelled as something else. In the end it'll be just like how that border wall is going to be "paid for by Mexico", even though the import tariffs paying for it are actually coming out of Americans' pockets.

Icarus said...

The safety of people is NOT negotiable, it does not matter who voted for mr trump. Cutting funding to this part of our infrastructure is NOT negotiable. This is inane. Stop defending this asinine behavior.

Tim Berry said...

To Eric Blair.........could not have stated it better!!!!! Its about time there was an adult in the room!1

Rebecca Timson said...

People understand how Trump does things, but they don't have to normalize it by referring to it as "negotiating". "Negotiating" by threat is not within the generally accepted understanding of what it means to negotiate. Thanks, Cliff, for providing us with clear talking points for communication with our representatives,

Rebecca Timson said...

Privatization is not what gave Europe a superior system.

JeffB said...

This is a good lesson for scientists. When you allow your science to become highly politicized and join forces with politicians and the film industry to make scary movies, you can expect to have your scientific integrity questioned and verified. Cliff has been a great advocate for science and a national meteorological treasure. But so many in Climate and Meteorology have become pawns for a political agenda regarding fossil fuels and international governance.

Focus on the science instead of telling stories, and maybe you will be taken seriously when it comes time for budget review.

BMFH said...

There is always a price to be paid when something becomes political and loses one's way ... I think there will still be plenty of money to continue to improve. It just that the wizards of smart will need to refocus on the real needs of accurate forecasting.

Lee Bruch said...

Just wait 'til the first hurricane hits the Trump compound without warning because the forecasts were screwed by not having appropriate satellite data. He'll whine to high heaven. But at least he might find some more bucks.

Paul Gross said...

I am a meteorologist who wishes to answer your question. Consider the weather forecast as a complicated math problem. Each individual computer model offers a suggested solution to the problem. An integral part of the forecast process for us meteorologists is evaluating these many, many models to see which ones agree with their respective solutions, which ones disagree, and which ones have the best day-to-day consistency in their solutions. By allowing an important group of those models to fall behind advancements in physics and thermodynamic upgrades that other models receive will seriously undermine the forecast process, and diminish the NWS' core directed mission: protection of life and property of the citizens of the United States.

Another person commented that these cuts justify being safer from terrorism at the expense of worse weather forecasts. Tornadoes and hurricanes are licking their chops...a lot more of them "attack" the U.S. every year than terrorists...

drysider said...

Unfortunately, as so often happens, lessons that could be learned from history are completely ignored. During the Cold War, it literally became commonplace to cut the budget of an agency called the U.S. Weather Bureau in favor of defense spending. Sadly, it would take a tornado swarm or a hurricane, often with loss of life, which would set off a hue and cry from constituents forcing budget writers to reconsider priorities.

Michael DeMarco said...

JeffB - that is your fantasy - I like the way the scientists care and I'll take that over your veiled denial.

strix27 said...

The Defense Dept. is seriously concerned about GCC, especially sea level rise. The military uses the same data that NOAA WS uses, and much of its modelling capability. Commercial broadcast meteorologists use the NOAA weather forecasts as the basis of their local forecasts. There will be pushback in Congress by these interests. However, if any programs and projects are saved from cuts you won't hear about it.

Alex said...

Given that the funding goes primarily to heavily blue states, President Trump loses nothing politically with these cuts. If Democrat voters had any sense, they'd stop demonizing President Trump 24/7.

Alex said...

Michael DeMarco said...
JeffB - that is your fantasy - I like the way the scientists care and I'll take that over your veiled denial.


Scientists are only supposed to care about the scientific method, not public policy.

Andrew Snow said...

Alex said: "Scientists are only supposed to care about the scientific method, not public policy."

By the same logic:

Doctors should only care about patients, not public policy.
Auto mechanics should only care about cars, not public policy.
I.T. professionals should only care about computers, not public policy.
Pastors should only care about theology, not public policy.
Etc., etc., etc.

So are politicians and the unemployed the only ones that are supposed to care about public policy?

Alex said...

When so-called scientists get involved with public policy, they pervert the science. It's not trustworthy anymore, because there is an agenda. You don't like that - too bad. That's how it is.

BMFH said...

You know Cliff, I'm not sure what has changed over the years but the last few years the weather guesser have really been blowing the forecasts.

I wonder if it is the loss of local knowledge in lieu of technolgy but man something sure has changed.

When Jack Capel and others would say that is was going to be a blustery day he was right and I adjusted my day.

Walter Hannah said...

I'm as troubled by this as anyone, but is there any silver lining?
Could it coerce NOAA to focus on a smaller set of forecast models, which might speed up improvements?
That's the only one I can think of.

Jon Kahrs said...

Blogger Alex said...

"When so-called scientists get involved with public policy, they pervert the science. It's not trustworthy anymore, because there is an agenda. You don't like that - too bad. That's how it is."

And when people who attack scientist assume they "pervert" science without proof, clearly they do not understand the scientific method. Stop being an offended snowflake and evaluate the science as presented irrespective of the person. There have been many great scientist who have made their public policy opinions clear, whether that be Oppenheimer or Teller.

Cristina said...

Paul is quite right, but also, a very important part of the weather satellite infrastructure depends in next generation geo synchronous satellites. The European Meteosat is nicely set on an orbit over Europe, not the continent of America.

Mary said...

Years ago the government was forced to stop providing weather reports for crops. Within a very short time there was a killing frost in Florida. Those who paid for the privatized reports fared relatively ok, but those who didn't ended up costing the gov't millions in losses. The trade-off cost way more than allowing the government to provide the taxpayers the reports their tax dollar had paid for

Easterntiger said...

"...owes the west coast nothing..."

So, it's really 'Make Those Who Vote For Me Great Again.'

This brand of thinking is the reason why now have chaos inside the beltway, resistance worldwide, and, multiple impeachment violations already pending.