THE WEATHER AND CLIMATE INFORMATION SYSTEM

The U.S. government invested about $2.7 billion in fiscal year 2002 for meteorological operations and supporting research, 93% of which was channeled through the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), the Department of Defense (DOD), and the Department of Transportation (DOT).1 The NOAA share (including satellite operations, weather and climate services, research, and archiving) is $1.6 billion, of which $745 million supports National Weather Service (NWS) activities and $2.3 million supports the six regional climate centers.2 Weather-related research, including in-house government research and academic research funded by government agencies, constitutes about 17% of the federal budget for weather activities.3 A significant but unknown amount of money is also invested by the private sector and state agencies to create weather and climate services. There are about 400 commercial weather companies and independent contractors in the United States,4 with revenues of about $500 million.5 All but four states have a state climatologist,6 and most contribute funding to the regional climate centers as well as to relevant state government agencies (e.g., transportation, environment, natural resources, emergency management). The value of data and products generated by the entire U.S. weather enterprise, including the media and financial services, is estimated to be in the billions and perhaps tens of billions of dollars.7

Each of the sectors participates in the weather enterprise for different reasons. The government participates because weather information and forecasts are critical to public safety, which is a government responsibility, they enhance the national economy, and they are necessary to support a

1  

Other agencies that offer meteorological services and support associated research include the U.S. Department of Agriculture, Department of Interior, Environmental Protection Agency, National Aeronautics and Space Administration, and Nuclear Regulatory Commission. See Office of the Federal Coordinator for Meteorological Services and Supporting Research, The Federal Plan for Meteorological Services and Supporting Research, Fiscal Year 2002, <http://www.ofcm.gov/fp-fy02/fedplan.htm>.

2  

See National Climate Program Act, <http://www.cfda.gov/public/viewprog.asp?progid=184>.

3  

Office of the Federal Coordinator for Meteorological Services and Supporting Research, The Federal Plan for Meteorological Services and Supporting Research, Fiscal Year 2002, <http://www.ofcm.gov/fp-fy02/fedplan.htm>.

4  

A voluntary list of more than 320 commercial weather providers is maintained by the NWS Office of Strategic Planning and Policy at <http://205.156.54.206/im/dirintro.htm>.

5  

R.A. Guth, 2000, Japan’s weather mogul to storm U.S., Wall Street Journal, p. B15.

6  

A list of state climatologists appears at <http://lwf.ncdc.noaa.gov/oa/climate/stateclimatologists.html>.

7  

Placing a value on weather information is difficult, in part because of a paucity of information on the size, investments, and revenues of the commercial weather industry. The



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