Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Congratulations, Mr. President


Congratulations on being elected to a second term. You’ve worked very hard for this and all of the American people, now that the election is over, wish you well and hope you will be successful. 

Hurricanes Sandy and Isaac, the tornadoes of 2011, and the terrible droughts of the last two years, show the vital importance of weather science in general and the forecast and warning of extreme weather in particular. There will be many, probably too many, things that will be on your plate on Inauguration Day. I hate to add more, but I believe the following are of enough importance to warrant your attention. 
  • Fix FEMA. Few are impressed with its performance in Hurricane Sandy. While Sandy is a major, geographically huge, disaster that is supposed to be FEMA's core mission. We don't need FEMA when a tornado damages a half-dozen homes. We need it to handle the big ones and it seems to fail time after time. The numerous photos of large, unused generators sitting idle in Manhattan are not inspiring confidence. 
  • Fully fund the National Weather Service's infrastructure. Insure it has the resources to protect the American people. Yes, there are items the NWS can cut (we don't need NWS coloring books) but the infrastructure is absolutely vital. 
  • Fully fund the NOAA and NASA earth observation satellite program. The former is in real trouble.
  • Get the U.S. back to a position of leadership in computer modeling for weather forecasting. I put less urgency on the fact we are behind the Europeans in 3-10 day forecasting because we can use their model and model ensemble in the short term. Because of the unique weather problems of the USA, we need to greatly accelerate our capability in fine-detail weather forecasting (called "mesoscale modeling" by meteorologists) first, then fix the medium-term modeling problem. 
  • De-emphasize trying to make climate forecasts for fifty years and try to greatly improve our slim skill at five to fifteen months. Record droughts should not be complete surprises. 
  • Try some new approaches to forecasting hurricane intensity.
  • The private sector in meteorology is willing to take on an even bigger role. 
The National Weather Service is one of the few federal agencies that pays for itself. So, you and the new Congress can afford to implement these suggestions. 

The United States, as recent events have again demonstrated, needs to build a more resilient and more sustainable society. Improving our weather forecasting and warning capabilities is an excellent, and cost-effective, place to start.

Mr. President and Mr. Romney, I congratulate you both and I hope, in the short-term, you'll both take well-deserved vacations with your families. 

That is my advice for the federal government. Advice for state and local governments, and for the rest of us, is here

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