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Responsible weather forecasting comes at a cost

The White House is proposing a 17 percent cut to the Department of Commerce in its latest budget. Why should you care? The Department of Commerce oversees the National Weather Service which is the lead agency for the nation’s weather warning infrastructure.

As a television meteorologist with over 30 years of experience, I cannot describe how much we, on a daily basis, depend on the National Weather Service. Considering the latest bout of severe weather in Rochester, this really highlights the importance we place on a fully funded scientific community. The availability of complex weather data is essential for us to do our jobs in an effective and timely manner. If the services mentioned below are affected, in my opinion, the proposed cuts could potentially set the science back for many years and in the long term, potentially impact the quality of weather warnings.

It is believed the weather satellite division, known as the National Environmental Satellite, Data and Information Service, would be hardest hit by the proposed cuts. The data provided by these satellites are essential for the quality of computer models. As you know, predicting the future is not an easy task. The accuracy of these models are indispensable when forecasting deadly storms. Now, more than ever this can be the difference in saving lives and property.

I certainly realize the importance in being prudent with our hard earned tax dollars. I also recognize these are currently only proposed cuts and that budget numbers will likely go back and forth during legislative negotiations. However, we need to keep in mind that it is estimated the National Weather Service costs each American about $3 per year (USA Today). In my opinion, a small price to pay for the quality we’ve come to expect from the weather forecasting community.

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