NOAA 2001-208
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Contact: Ron Trumbla
1/16/01

NATIONAL WEATHER SERVICE DIRECTOR LOOKS TO FUTURE

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. - The evolving electronic age will provide new technologies that will increase public safety and offer economic growth for the weather industry, according to National Weather Service Director, retired Air Force Brig. Gen. Jack Kelly. Speaking at the 81st annual American Meteorological Society conference in Albuquerque, N.M. Kelly said, "the new communication technology revolution is fostering an unprecedented growth in the use of weather, water and climate information, particularly by the broadcast industry and the emerging Internet and wireless industries.

"These technologies enable citizens and industries to get weather information when and where they want it," he said. Following a decade of modernization, the NWS has a weather data collection and forecasting system that is the foundation for the nation and just the starting point for a burgeoning online weather industry.

"We are entering an era when weather, on demand from a diverse customer base, is resulting in a greater need for specialized forecasts from all economies," said Kelly. A growing number of firms collect, package, produce and deliver weather, water and climate information and services to fit the specific needs of their clients.

The online popularity of weather information is growing according to a recent study by the Pew Research Center for the People and the Press, which noted that weather has become the number one form of news that people look for online.

According to Kelly, "Our policy of making government information available to all, coupled with new technological innovations -- particularly the Internet -- are fueling these new information industries and creating jobs."

Recent surveys rated NOAA's weather-rich Web site (http://www.noaa.gov) either the most popular (Media Metrix, Inc.) or second most popular (Nielson//NetRatings) U.S. government site.

Kelly also said National Weather Service and private sector entities each have distinct roles in the weather information process, and that, "We must continue working strategically as partners for the public good and the economic benefit of our country as
a whole." According to Kelly, the challenge is to work together in developing more effective means to integrate weather, water and climate information into commercial operations, strategies and decisions, while ensuring the safety of our citizens and the well being of our economy.

In July 1999, the AMS adopted a policy on the status of the current public-private partnership in weather and climate services, saying, "The economic position of U.S. industries impacted by weather and climate will be well served, the private weather/climate sector will experience unprecedented growth, and the general public will continue to benefit as a result of this public-private partnership."

More recently, the Computer and Communications Industry Association commissioned an analysis of The Role of Government in a Digital Age, with particular emphasis on public-private issues. The report says, "The National Weather Service seems to strike this balance (between public and private roles) well...For example, specialized weather forecasts and analysis for industrial clients are reserved for private firms, with cooperative transmission efforts in the case of weather emergencies. Thus, NWS's approach seems to balance the public sector's role in providing basic information with an appropriate concern [about] displacing specialized, value-added private-sector services."

Kelly added, "Working together as partners keeps hazards from becoming disasters. The National Weather Service can't do it without the private sector and the private sector can't do it without the National Weather Service. Our taxpayer-funded data and products form a national information database and infrastructure that is used by other government agencies, private weather companies, broadcasters, the general public and the global community."

Kelly concluded with a challenge to educate the American public about the unique partnership and dependence between the National Weather Service, the commercial weather and broadcast industries. "Working together we can find methods to improve the utility and information content of our products so they are meaningful to decision makers. This country has the best weather services in the world. Working together we can make it even better in this new age."