Anyone who knows me on a personal level knows I can be a little political.
I'm not into bashing one side or the other...but I do enjoy a good, raucous debate in the arena of ideals.
The recent debate over the mandatory budget cuts set forth in the "Sequester" deal last week have had a lot of people shaking their heads...but some new cuts being considered won't have me shaking my head. They'll more likely have me banging my head against a hard, blunt surface.
According to Bloomberg, the U.S. National Weather Service may freeze hiring and reduce the number of weather balloons that are released into the atmosphere to collect data used for forecasts...this according to a union official.
I have a BIG problem with this...and it's not just because I'm a Weather Guy.
The ramifications of such a move, especially the weather balloons, would be simply detrimental.
You see, â??Those weather balloons are the main drivers they use to get models that tell you, for example, thereâ??s a pretty big snowstorm thatâ??s going to be in Washington,â?? Dan Sobien, president of the National Weather Service Employees Organization, said yesterday. â??That would be a very devastating thing to cut.â??
I couldn't agree more.
It's those forecast models that give us in the forecasting community the ability to predict the weather in the future. The data is gathered...fed into very powerful computer modeling systems...and then we use those models as a base from which to build our forecasts.
You can read more about the balloon network here.
As it stands now, prior to any cuts, our network of weather balloon sites is already too small. There are just over 90 civilian and military sites in the U.S. that release balloons twice daily. When a big, complicated storm system is brewing, some will do supplemental launches to gauge subtle changes that may be happening.
Regardless...we could easily use double that number.
As you may already realize, computers are only as good as the data being fed into them. Remember the old adage..."Garbage in...garbage out".
The more data we can feed into our numerical modeling programs the better and more accurate they'll become. It would give us the ability to be more accurate with big systems that will have widespread impacts.
So, reducing the number of balloons should be unthinkable. Unfortunately...it's now become a pawn in a D.C. chess game.
Our ability to predict severe weather outbreaks, devastating snow storms and hurricanes would be horribly degraded. Over recent years we've gotten very good at pinpointing large-scale, major-impact weather systems days in advance...giving people the ability to prepare themselves, their property...even evacuate when called for.
Weakening a major part of that forecasting chain should, quite simply, be off limits.