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qtpa2ts
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INTERESTING ARTICLE FROM FOX NEWS
      #77421 - Tue Aug 21 2007 11:17 PM

Opinion Opinion HOME
FOX NEWS POLLS
O'Reilly Factor
Red Eye

Does Government Weather Forecasting Endanger Lives?
Tuesday, August 21, 2007

By John Lott

As Hurricane Dean roars through the Gulf of Mexico, it reminds everyone how dangerous the weather can be. But it should also remind everyone how poorly the National Hurricane Center has been at predicting storms.

Despite dire predictions from the National Hurricane Center, no hurricanes hit the U.S. last year. This year they are again predicting as many as 10 hurricanes, up to five of them hitting the U.S. Fortunately, Dean also seems most likely to miss us.

All this raises a question: Is the government’s free weather prediction service so bad that it is worth paying for private companies to predict the weather?

With all the blame still going around about Hurricane Katrina’s devastation, one fact has missed getting much attention: private weather forecasting companies predicted the threat to New Orleans well before the National Weather Service. In fact, Accuweather issued a forecast that the hurricane would hit New Orleans 12 hours earlier than the government service.

This is hardly something new. Private companies with a lot at stake would often rather pay for private forecasts than rely on the “free” forecasts from the government. Hugh Connett, the president of Bridgeline, a gas pipeline company in Louisiana, claims that the government’s hurricane forecasts are too imprecise. He says that private companies such as Accuweather do it better, because they give more accurate predictions and provide hour-by-hour forecasts of a storm’s path.

His position is not ideological – Connett’s firm monitors the past accuracy of hurricane forecasters to make sure paying extra for the private service is worth it.

It is not just for hurricanes that private forecasting comes out on top. A new study by Forecast Watch, a company that keeps track of past forecasts, found that from Oct. 1, 2006, through June 30, 2007, the government’s National Weather Service did very poorly in predicting the probability of rain or snow. Comparing the National Weather Service to The Weather Channel, CustomWeather, and DTN Meteorlogix, Forecast Watch found that the government’s next-day forecast had a 21 percent greater error rate between predicted probability of precipitation and the rate that precipitation actually occurred.

In looking at predicting snow fall from December 2006 through February 2007, the National Weather Service’s average error was 24 percent greater.

“All private forecasting companies did much better than the National Weather Service,” the report concludes.

The government doesn’t do any better with forecasting temperature. For the largest 50 cities in the U.S. over the last year, ForecastAdvisor.com ranks the National Weather Service’s overall predictions for high and low temperatures as well as precipitation as dead last among the six weather forecasting services they examined.

It has only been in the last several years that comparisons between government and private weather companies have been possible, as the National Weather Service has made its data more readily available. But none of this should be very surprising. Incentives matter. If the private companies don’t do a good job, they go out of business. Government agencies never even shrink.

Unfortunately, these aren’t the only problems with the National Weather Service. The service has been accused in the past of withholding government aircraft reconnaissance of hurricanes for up to 11 hours before releasing the information to private companies or the public.

A more serious problem is that the National Weather Service gives away its services for free. In 2004, the National Weather Service began shelving a 1991 policy that had barred the weather agency from offering services that private industry could provide. The Weather Service also now offers much of its data on the internet for free. With an $882 million budget for 2007, the National Weather Service is certainly not free and it can afford to give away a lot of services that its private competitors can’t.

There was a good reason for this 1991 ban on competition. During the 1980s, private meteorology services saw a chance to make money by providing television stations with specialized forecasts that the National Weather Service hadn’t been offering. But soon after the private companies began providing this service, the National Weather Service started giving stations the same specialized forecasts for free, driving the private forecasting companies out of the business of providing these forecasts. That is a sure way to discourage future innovation. Private forecasters are much more established now, but the government giving away free services still hurts them.

In the case of anything other than government, people would instantly call this behavior what it is: predation. But, ironically, government enterprises represent a much bigger predatory threat than private companies. It is rare for private firms to destroy competitors by selling their products below the cost of production because doing so is very expensive. And new competitors can always enter the market in the future. But it is easy for the government to sell below cost. The Weather Service increases its clout and turf by giving services away for free while passing the bill on to taxpayers.

The new data comparing the National Weather Service and its private competitors should give us pause.

Scaling back the National Weather Service isn’t just about accurately predicting tomorrow’s high temperature. People’s lives and livelihoods are at stake in getting this right. With a budget of almost a billion dollars, this may be one place where cutting back on government will save both money and lives.


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qtpa2ts
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Re: INTERESTING ARTICLE FROM FOX NEWS [Re: qtpa2ts]
      #77424 - Tue Aug 21 2007 11:51 PM

But of course.. there is also this article. Makes you wonder. Note the date of the article. Hmmmm... Your thoughts?

http://www.accuweather.com/iwxpage/adc/pressroom/prs/corp/corp_08.htm


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qtpa2ts
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Re: INTERESTING ARTICLE FROM FOX NEWS [Re: qtpa2ts]
      #77425 - Wed Aug 22 2007 12:52 AM

I posted this article to get your opinions on the article(s). I am not with Accuweather or NWS. I posted BOTH articles so that you could get the view of where I am coming from. I find it odd that the two are so similar. That is why I posted it and yes I am a "newbie," but I am not new at knowing when something doesn't seem right.

Though I wouldn't know the difference between either Accuweather or NWS forecasts because I am a "newbie" I can tell you this.. I believe the article is reckless and disturbing. IMO!!

It was simply posted for discussion since I have noticed that many of you have different takes on both.


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Grantness
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Re: INTERESTING ARTICLE FROM FOX NEWS [Re: qtpa2ts]
      #77427 - Wed Aug 22 2007 02:37 AM

Public versus private. The eternal struggle.

The way that the article is written, it smacks of hit piece, probably drawn up by some PR flack employed by Accuweather. Personally, I have no problem with private or public forecasts, and think that they can coexist. The problem with having public only type orgs (NOAA) is that the data, while free, might skew towards inaccuracy. The problem with a private only system is that the public would end up being charged for something that, arguably, should be free and is a public service paid by tax dollars. If this was indeed a hit piece written by someone at AccuWx, it wouldn't be their first attempt at neutering the NWS. After donating 5k to Rick Santorum a few years ago, he introduced a bill that would forbid the NWS from providing public forecasts. What I wonder is, what effect that would have on AccuWx's bottom line? Personally, I don't think your average Joe should have to pay to find what the weather is going to be, indirectly or directly. If a multi-billion dollar business needs assurance that it will indeed be windy and raining at 3:54PM, let them pay for a private company to assure that, if they are so inclined.

Bottom line, IMO: Both have their place in the grand scheme of things. To get rid of public weather forecasts would be a grave disservice to the citizenry.

--------------------
Grantness / First Year Met Student


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AdrianInFlorida
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Re: INTERESTING ARTICLE FROM FOX NEWS [Re: qtpa2ts]
      #77431 - Wed Aug 22 2007 08:04 AM

Of course, Fox forgot to mention that their buddy Joe "Screaming Like My Hair Is On Fire!" Bastardi is a paid 'expert' on the air whenever they need to play up a hurricane for ratings, and he is also paid by "Accu"weather.

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jcvitte
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Re: INTERESTING ARTICLE FROM FOX NEWS [Re: AdrianInFlorida]
      #77432 - Wed Aug 22 2007 09:44 AM

IMO, I take anything broadcast by FOX News with a shaker full of salt. If you watch the "news" reported by them, you can see a real big business bias, and a predudice towards pretty much any govt program that competes with any corporation. Bottom line, tha American public needs to be informed, they should not have to pay for news, or weather. It is their responsiblity, however to be aware, and to pay attention to situations that may affect their lives. What responsible leaders should be doing is encouraging young people to become more educated, supporting programs to promote gifted students, and providing incentives for students to pursue different careers than only those in which the driving force is a large paycheck. While oversite in spending is certainly needed, science related careers are needed more. Govt programs pump money into this economy or should, and there is nothing disgraceful about public service jobs. Yeah, the NWS isn't always the most accurate, thats why I watch this site and others, but when I see a descrepancy between forcasts, I dont' charge anyone for my opinion, and I do alert as many family and friends as I can. And in the end, when it comes to weather, it is really an opinion, isn't it?

--------------------
and in the end, the love you take
is equal to the love you make

Edited by jcvitte (Wed Aug 22 2007 09:45 AM)


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AdrianInFlorida
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Re: INTERESTING ARTICLE FROM FOX NEWS [Re: jcvitte]
      #77444 - Wed Aug 22 2007 02:43 PM

Maybe as a rebuttal the NHC should send an overlay of their Dean forcast tracks with the actual track to Fox News. They did a great job with the accuracy of the Dean forecasts.

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Brian B
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Re: INTERESTING ARTICLE FROM FOX NEWS [Re: AdrianInFlorida]
      #77455 - Wed Aug 22 2007 06:56 PM

Dean was forecast very well by the NHC. I personally am not a huge fan of Accuweather due to their tactics and imo, poor forecasts for my local area. Last year, Joe Bastardi was touting how great his forecast was and put the only low area in the big bend of Florida. Low and behold, the first storm of the year, Alberto, made landfall right in the big bend.

--------------------
FSU Meteorology Grad


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saluki
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Re: INTERESTING ARTICLE FROM FOX NEWS [Re: Brian B]
      #77463 - Thu Aug 23 2007 12:56 AM

The NHC isn't perfect, but I much prefer its "just the facts" approach when a storm develops. At least the NHC's mission isn't to attract paid subscribers or ratings points. Accuweather is a little too heavy on sensationalism and hype for my taste (same can be said of Fox and other news organizations).

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Viewer
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Re: INTERESTING ARTICLE FROM FOX NEWS [Re: saluki]
      #77607 - Fri Aug 31 2007 10:51 AM

All news organizations have one goal. And we know what that is. $$

FOX - ABC -NBC- CBS - Drudge - AP so on ..

So just to cut down FOX is hypocritical. They all do it for their reasons and not the reasons of reporting true worthy news.

The media controls the people who believe everything they hear and read. The stories they report are never and I say never 100% correct. So throw away your newspapers, radio's and get away from your TV. And enjoy your short life. Entertain yourself with a good movie or something, not the news. Also check out the non-profit outlets like this one.

Just a crazy person making too much sense.


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GuppieGrouper
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Re: INTERESTING ARTICLE FROM FOX NEWS [Re: qtpa2ts]
      #78003 - Thu Sep 06 2007 09:03 PM

I could not resist responding to this article nor the respondents. First of all, the government is paid for by the Tax Payers and does not pay well for all the services we do receive. Next, the government is controlled by whomever has the money just like private corporations pay the top bidder. The government could have better oversight, except that would be like sending the fox to watch the chickens. Who would watch the Fox? I just recognized the pun and you may take it how you like. The bottom line is that regardless of where Katrina went or did not go, New Orleans was not the point of impact, Mississippi was and the shoreline was changed forever. The people who died will never be counted accurately because the Census does not have an accurate count of who did and did not live there at the time. (People just will not fill out those stupid little government forms that give out private information because it could reduce food stamps, welfare checks, and medicare checks if the number of dead people were higher than the number of people receiving GOVERNMENT benefits. The next problem we have is that There was nothing anyone could do about evacuating the number of people who needed to be moved. As long as real estate developers are allowed to build on the waterfronts you will have lots of dead people. We all used to know not to build permanent housing near the ocean. Somehow by the 21st Century the asphalt, concrete and paint fumes have fused a mentality that we can actually build structures that are hurricane proof on SAND for goodness sake. And, while I am at it, we have all but changed the structure of the shorelines to change the ecology of the nation for centuries to come, not necessarily a good thing even if you are a conservative politician who likes to make money instead of trees.
I am afraid that in my book the lawyer jokes have turned into jokes about real estate developers because lawyers as a group do not tend to set people up to die, by selling dangerous homes, dangerous locations, and draining vital swamp land to sell to uninformed buyers. I am not talking about all the real estate developers, just the ones who sold out south Florida at this point. I can guess that this happened on the Northern Gulf coast too. Before I get strung out on this topic, though. Read, think and write to your government. If you want more accurate reporting of weather by the Government, you will have to make a law stating that homeland protection should include accurate weather forecasting and release of correct information to the public and that the money to do this should flow even more freely than the funds currently being poured down a foxhole for less moral reasons. Most forecasters also don't have to prove their loyalty by dying in the storm they failed to predict.

--------------------
God commands. Laymen guess. Scientists record.


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