situation when the commercial weather industry questioned why it was that the National Weather Service would expend public funds to create a product and produce a service when one was already developed and available from the commercial weather industry in response to what was perceived to be a business and market need.
The governments of Australia and New Zealand began public awareness programs of the dangers of overexposure to the sun in the late 1980s, and Canada started an awareness program in 1992. Alarmed by increasing trends in skin cancers and cataract surgeries, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) launched a similar health awareness program in 1993.
The Canadian government first devised a UV forecast index based upon the incident rate of UV-B radiation reaching the Earth’s surface around noontime to help the public plan to appropriately protect themselves from overexposure. The EPA used the Canadian program as a model. Not having the necessary expertise, the EPA approached the National Weather Service early in 1993 about developing a U.S. Ultraviolet Index similar to the Canadian index. At the same time, several federal agencies (NOAA, USDA and the EPA) were deploying ground based observation networks to measure UV radiation reaching the Earth’s surface. These networks would provide long-term data for purposes of trend detection as well as the necessary validation for any UV index forecast.
In November of 1993, the EPA invited atmospheric scientists, medical specialists and the private meteorological sector to discuss the possibility of a broad coalition. A major concern at that time was that none of the UV-B indices developed by any country included the effects of clouds. In response, the NWS examined the possibility of including existing NWS cloud forecast data in a UV index. After appropriate peer review, validation, and testing, the NWS concluded that including cloud cover in a UV index was feasible.
The EPA as well as television broadcast companies, including The Weather Channel, promoted the NWS development of a baseline UV index available to the broad public in a non-exclusive manner as a public health service. Following further consultations with the commercial meteorology sector and other interested parties, an experimental UV index was made available in May 1994 as a plain text bulletin for 58 cities. The NWS also made its data and the methods used to calculate the index broadly available to the private sector in order that these companies could create value-added products, such as hourly UV forecasts for ski resorts or the many locations for which NWS did not issue a UV forecast.
In cooperation with the American Meteorological Society, the NWS held several meetings during 1995-1996 to work in partnership with the pri-