May 25, 2017

President Trump's Budget Plan Weakens U.S. Weather Prediction

When I read through President Trump's budget plan for NOAA and the National Weather Service, I was both disappointed and disturbed.   One would be hard pressed to come up with a plan that could more effectively undermine our nation's weather prediction capabilities.
And strangely, the proposed budget directly contradicts the Weather Research and Forecasting Innovation Act just passed by the Republican-dominated Congress and SIGNED by President Trump.

Let me review some of the recommendations of the NOAA budget plan---you will not believe them.  

1.  "NOAA requests a reduction of $5,000,000 to slow the transition of advanced modeling research into operations for improved warnings and forecasts. "

The U.S. is behind in numerical weather prediction and Congress had provided funding to replace the aged GFS with a Next Generation Global Prediction System (NGGPS) and other major improvements.  A five million dollar reduction will cripple the National Weather Service's ability to build the new modeling system and will also undermine improvements in hurricane forecasts.

2. "Terminate Investment in Mid-Range Weather Outlooks: NOAA requests a decrease of $5,000,000 to terminate all development, testing, and implementation of experimental products to extend operational weather outlooks, including temperature and precipitation outlooks, from 16 days to 30 days."

Perhaps one of the areas of greatest potential in weather prediction is extended skill into the subseasonal domain (2 weeks to a month).  Subseasonal prediction was the CENTERPIECE of the Weather Research and Forecasting Innovation Act noted above (which was pushed and supported by Republicans in Congress).
And now Trump's folks want to zero it out.   Just wacky.

3.  "NOAA requests a decrease of $11,000,000 to reduce or eliminate components of its Tsunami Research and Operational Warning program. ..Support for preparedness education, outreach, and innovation research will cease. This program change request is consistent with the elimination of the DART® moorings"

There is great concern about loss of life associated with tsunamis, particularly after hundreds of thousands of people died in the Indian Ocean event of 2004.   The West Coast of the U.S. is particularly vulnerable.   A key resource for tsunami prediction is the DART buoy system (see above), which can sense anomalous increases in water level.  Stunningly, the Trump plan would eliminate these buoys (which we have already invested in), putting American and other lives at risk.  Madness.

4. "Reduce Surface and Marine Observations: NOAA will reduce surface and marine observations by $25,989,000, including the National Mesonet Program, Weather and Ocean Platform, and the Tropical Atmosphere Ocean (TAO) array. It also will reduce marine observations that inform forecasts and warnings as well as understanding of global environmental patterns, such as El Niño."

Talk about going blind.  This approach will savage the nation's observation system (such as the high density mesonet program) and end the buoy array over the Pacific, which helps us diagnose and predict El Nino and La Nina.

5. "Eliminate Arctic Research: NOAA requests decreases of $2,230,000 from Climate Laboratories and Cooperative Institutes and $3,770,000 from Regional Climate Data and Information. This reduction will terminate Arctic research focused on improvements to sea ice modeling and predictions that support the safety of fishermen, commercial shippers, cruise ships, and local communities."

One of the key deficiencies for weather and seasonal forecasting is poor understanding of changes in sea ice distribution and how to forecast them.   Trump's budget proposed to terminate all research in this area.  Unbelievable

6. "End Vortex-Southeast: NOAA requests a decrease of $5,000,000 to terminate Vortex-Southeast, a program used to detect, respond to, and warn against tornadoes in the Southeastern United States."

There is much we don't know about the origins and prediction of tornadoes and field programs like Vortex provide critical insights.  But Trump's folks want to terminate this important research program, which is surprising since tornadoes impact many red states.

These are only a few of the outrageous, irrational cuts listed in the Trump NOAA budget plan.  The result of these and other cutbacks would be to set back U.S. weather prediction several years, giving up any chance of advancing our nation's weather prediction capabilities to state-of-the-science.  

The economic impact of poorer weather predictions would be large and negative.  Bizarrely,  this budget plan directly works against the recently passed Weather Research and Forecasting Innovation Act, that was pushed by Republican leadership in Congress and signed by President Trump.

How can a President pushing to " Make American Great, Again" propose a budget that will "Make America's Weather Prediction Inferior, Again"?
Republican staffers in Congress have told me that Trump's budget is dead on arrival and that they will act to protect the nation's weather prediction capabilities.  Since the worst weather in the nation (e.g., tornadoes, hurricanes, severe thunderstorms) is found in red states, you would expect the Republicans to take weather forecasting seriously.   Most do.

And perhaps there is a silver lining to this situation. Might Trump's crazy budget inspire moderate Republicans and Democrats to work together to put together a rational budget plan for NOAA and other agencies?  One could hope.


  1. Sounds like a good job by the administration. If you get a top-level order to reduce by $X million, what do you propose to cut? The stuff that nobody will want you to cut. And if it does get cut, those are the areas you are going to have the easiest time arguing to get back.

  2. No need for surprise. We have had many decades of abundant and well substantiated warning, but no one has ever accused America of learning from history.

  3. In my view, any reduction in an already bloated federal, state and local government's expenditures is a step in the right direction. I want my weather describing troughs, not feeding from the public trough.

    With these "shortfalls" why don't weather people get together for a Crowdfunding program and a lover of weather like me would donate.

  4. One can hope. Thanks for the analysis.

  5. How cute, Cliff.

    You thought the GOP might want to help people? Or support Science?

    I bet you your bike, Trump had no hand in this budget- he certainly hasn't read it.

    The GOP doesn't want to help anyone (except the ultra-wealthy AKA themselves) so it's not surprising they want to keep people in the dark about Climate/ Weather.

    Let them eat.........nah, just screw 'em!

  6. First--your numbers and your results are spot on.. I get it... times are tough. In my family if we cant afford something we go without out cut it . We need to run the government like the lemonade stand we all had as kids !Let the Euros and Canadians continue to predict ..way more correctly than us anyway..... this blog has become way to political. Cliff... we are in a deficit.. we have to cut.. cuts are everywhere. if the 2 past presidents didn't run up the tab.. and we can argue why until the cows come home.. but it is what it is! ( yes on a D & one R).. we'd be ok to spend on stuff... maybe... If you keep doing the weather-political thing ( and its your right to do it!)you better rename this blog to the "Cliff Maas Weather - Jump on the bash Trump Bandwagon Blog"... keep doing the weather--you're good at it... leave the politics to the hacks on both sides.

    1. Your lemonade stand analogy is nonsense. To help balance your stand budget would you reduce prices for your wealthiest customers? How does that help you balance your budget?

  7. Nonsense perhaps but a fun analogy. A lemonade stand that emasculates its ability to compete globally by reducing its lemonade R and D, , screws the bottom rung labour out of their affordable health care, chases away the lemon pickers, doesn't quite explain who will then pick the lemons, makes sure there will be lots of poor americans to pick the lemons at the same old wages, reduces taxes on the lemonade for the wealthiest customers,, diverts all remaining revenue to tools of war to fight the haters of the best lemonade in the world, then sooner or later is proven to have been placed in power by Russian lemonade tycoons.

    Like I said, it's not like we didn't have plenty of warning!

  8. This is the first round a the budget... the reality will probably be somewhere in the middle about 5 billion ( man that's a lot of money!).. THATS ABOUT 3 LESS THAN THE FINAL 2014 BUDGET. So lets not get crazy... reality is that it will be not as bad as you all think. Folks.. we just don't have the money and we need to put what we have into getting this going again. Our GDP is getting better but horrible vs. lots of our friends. Cliff, I in no way meant to disparage your theories.. yes things might get tough for a while... but lets all hope it gets better. You are THE man when it comes to weather--keep on that for us ok? I'd even consider donating to this blog if it ever comes to that!

    and PS --- Jonathan... In my Lemonade stand world.. those who could afford to by my lemonade can but it, those who can't will have to do without... My business lives with its means. If I can't afford another computer.. I do with what I have until I can afford one. Business 101.. sorry for reality !

  9. Oh, I believe the plan numbers ... the only surprise is that the cuts are not deeper -- next budget, probably. The deepest cuts are over on the climate research side of NOAA.

    These cuts don't even rise above the threshold of "noise" in the federal budget. They're just political theater. The sum of all the cuts you describe barely amounts to half the cost of a new F-35 fighter jet, which should eventually come in handy searching for survivors from the tsunamis after the Cascadia subduction zone unzips; assuming that it can fly at a fraction of what was promised.

    Well, the cuts should help a few cronies with important matters like gold-plating their bathrooms.

    I already crowdfund these programs through a thing called paying my taxes. Not many lemonade stands have the ability to issue US Treasury notes. Yeah, greatest country in the history of history and it can supposedly no longer "afford" to fund things like accurate weather forecasting and disaster preparedness.

  10. To Jack Graham, your idea of "leaving politics to the hacks on both sides" is exactly the problem. Instead of staying in our own little boxes, we need everyone with a brain and a voice to be involved in politics, and most of all scientists. That is how a free country with free speech protections in the 21st century must operate.

    Otherwise, the political flacks will indeed run the country. We need to challenge them. Constantly. With Data. With the best science we know.

  11. To Jack Graham:

    Is your lemonade stand on your property? Did you take out a mortgage on that property? Did your parents front you the money for supplies that you paid back later? If you did you are running a deficit just like the government because doing so is an investment in your future. As Dr Mass pointed out the money we spend now will save money in the long run by giving us a better understanding of the weather and helping us limit damage and other things that cost much more.

  12. Bruce Kay, scary to think it's that simple..

    So obvious, and happening right in front of us all..

    If politicians only made minimum wage, and had to use the social programs available. I think they might be better at their jobs.

    We're so greedy.. it's what drives us forward. Kinda sad, but it keeps the world turning.. for now.

    Seems crazy they would stop predicting tornadoes and elnino to save a half a fighter plane.

    Strange priorities..

  13. As I understand this, the Trump budget has tasked NOAA for some amount of budget decrease. It is NOAA who has put forth these programs as examples of what it would choose to cut to comply with this budget reduction.

    I don't know how many times in industry I saw the same lame attempts when a department was tasked with a budget cut. The first thing put forth to cut are things that everyone feels are valuable. My solution was always to have a one-on-one with the department manager to remind them that their job was to cut programs that have the least impact, not the most, and ask for the new list. If the second list was prepared the same way, then I changed the department manager and got someone in there who understood the goal.

    So this is silliness so far. Now the Seattle media has picked up on this with their deceptive articles. If NOAA approaches this the way it should, it will find expenditures that have less impact and less "media-appeal". This is an area where the government agencies need to take some lessons from industry. It's also an area where changing management might be required.

    I'm strongly supportive of NOAA's mission, but I refuse to believe that there isn't 10% or more of dead-wood in any organization, especially if it hasn't been properly trimmed for some time. At least, looking at it as a former tech industry executive.

  14. Simple, he doesn't understand science, and he is so self centered that he dismisses anything he doesn't understand.

  15. Nobody is willing to touch entitlement programs, so essentials like weather prediction get the axe. I don't blame Trump, I blame the American people for being leeches on the system. Honestly Cliff, how can you be so short-sighted?

    1. The fact you consider the American people leeches says a lot about you.

  16. The Seattle area doesn't get frequent severe weather events (although that may be changing). In the U.S. Midwest, and on the north Atlantic coast the weather is much harsher than we ever get here in western Washington state. Out on the Washington state coast its a different story also. A tsunami there would be horrific. Don't tell people who's lives depend on accurate weather prediction/Tsunami prediction that you're cutting that budget.

    Cut the salaries of politicians, eliminate lobbyists, eliminate 1000 dollar a guest political parties, and force Presidential candidates to disclose their actual wealth before they are even allowed to run for office. Pay all politicians the average American wage and force them to use the same health care and retirement that "average" people must use and pay for. Stop electing billionaires as President. That makes a lot more sense in saving money.

  17. So maybe you should have joined in with the rest of us in the March for Science! 🙄

  18. Also I feel it is important to point out something that seems forgotten these days, which is that government is NOT a business. The point of government isn't to create and sell a "product", lemonade or otherwise, in order to maximize profit for shareholders. A government's job is to take care of its citizens and other residents of the country, including people who don't contribute directly to the economy, like children or the elderly. (Even including even illegal residents, if you adhere to the Constitution.) That is it's entire job and the entire reason we put up with being governed. You can't just "fire" people who can't put in 40-hr workweeks churning out widgets, unless you enjoy living in a literal dystopia. Leave business-running to corporate CEOs, and government-running to people who understand this crucial difference.

  19. Bizarre is a federal government that spends about $11 billion every day, half of which is borrowed.

  20. Michele - it's a huge leap from not getting all the money you want for your pet program to dystopia. When you argue from the point of hyperbole like that - you lose the moderates.


Please make sure your comments are civil. Name calling and personal attacks are not appropriate.

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