Let’s Gut the Weather Service!

NWS

After a year of devastating hurricanes, weather-induced wildfires, and widespread drought the Trump administration’s budget proposes an eight percent drop in the NWS budget. Where will we get our forecasts from, for-profit commercial providers? Keep in mind that Accuweather, The Weather Channel, etc. were not the entities that launched the next generation weather satellite systems.

Fresh on the heels of the costliest year on record for weather disasters, with economic damages exceeding $300 billion in the United States, the Trump administration has proposed cutting the National Weather Service’s budget by about 8 percent. It also recommends eliminating 355 jobs at the agency, including 248 forecasting positions.

….

Additional proposed cuts at the Weather Service, part of the overall $75 million reduction, include:

  • A $15 million cut in the surface and marine observations program, which includes data points that provide information on ocean cycles such as El Nino.
  • An $11 million cut to the agency’s tsunami warning program.
  • A $14 million cut to its science and technology integration activities, which would decrease investments in weather and water modeling and some supporting evaluation.

Trump administration proposes 8 percent budget cut at National Weather Service, reduction in staff, The Washington Post, by Jason Samenow, February 12, 2018.

A Chilly Start to 2018

Ice Branch

2018 started out on a cold note for people living in the Midwest and Eastern United States. Those of us in the West have experienced strange warm weather and a lack of moisture. Along the West Coast many are now dealing with the aftermath of strong, wet storms that have caused massive landslides in the fire-damaged areas.

In particular my area has reclaimed its spot on the National Drought Monitor Map.  For the entire month of December I measured 0.24 inches of moisture in my backyard. We may get some rain later today. That would be most welcome. Of course, now that it is January, we should be getting snow not rain.

 

Disaster Fatigue

2017 fires
(cc) 2017 Dicklyon Aerial view of smoke from the 2017 fires in Napa and Sonoma Counties, California, viewed from near the south end of Lake Berryessa, nearest to the Atlas fire and looking toward the Nuns fire. Point Reyes is visible in the distance.

Fires, hurricanes, earthquakes, rolling back the Clean Air Act, Harvey, Irma, Maria, defunding the EPA, Puerto Rico, Florida, Texas, California, climate change denial becomes policy, sexual harassment, World War III, floods, droughts: If you follow the news you have heard about all of these incidents. It gets to be overwhelming. In this country alone hundreds of thousands of people are being worn down by the constant barrage of bad news. This country has been through this to some extent before, for example during the Depression and during the late 1960s and the Viet Nam War. However, today people are plugged in and it takes effort to avoid the news. We don’t have to wait for the delivery of the morning newspaper. We can follow “the news” constantly online.

Grist has an article about “disaster fatigue/compassion fatigue/secondary trauma syndrome” (After the disaster comes disaster fatigue. Here’s how to fight it. October, 2017 by Ask Umbra).

Humans aren’t made to process an unlimited amount of trauma. In fact, we’re wired to protect ourselves against it. . . . seeing so much destruction and feeling incapable of doing anything leads to a kind of moral distress.

We all need to take a step back, breathe deeply, and take a break. Taking care of ourselves is a priority in times like these. Let’s make it a habit.

Billion Dollar Disasters, 2017

2017-billion-dollar-disaster-map
2017 Public Domain, NOAA

The weather and climate disasters depicted above do not include Hurricane Harvey. The nine events above all happened this year and the economic cost of each event is $1,000,000,000.00 at minimum.

The NOAA report (Billion-Dollar Weather and Climate Disasters: Overview) found that the average number of billion-dollar events during 1980-2016, was 5.5 events per year. When looking at more recent years, 2012-2016, the average jumps to 10.6 events per year. This is not normal. This is very expensive. The map above is not yet complete. We still have several months left in 2017. I wonder how many more billion-dollar disasters will be added to the map at the end of the year.