small staff.35 The world’s largest database system (BaBar), which runs on 100 servers and distributes data to 75 institutions around the world, has stored more than 668 terabytes of data from the Stanford Linear Accelerator.36 These and other academic and private sector advances in geospatial data management could greatly improve the usefulness of the nation’s weather and climate record to all sectors. Long-term archive issues are not currently a priority for weather companies, but as forecasting skill improves to permit seasonal and longer-term weather predictions, the quality and accessibility of archived weather and climate data will become increasingly important to the private sector, creating a new source of stress on the partnership.


Advances in science and technology over the last 10 years have drastically changed the capabilities of the three sectors as well as the expectations of their respective users. Barriers to entry have been lowered, eroding previously exclusive roles. For example, data collection and modeling are no longer exclusively the role of the federal government, and visualization techniques are no longer used exclusively by the private and academic sectors. Modeling and forecasts have improved, and new methods of communicating weather and climate information have emerged, creating opportunities for providing new products and serving new user communities. Major shifts include the use of wireless technologies and long-range (climate) forecasts by the private sector, and the implementation of Internet search tools and the National Digital Forecast Database by the NWS.

Prudent public policy must be based on the assumption that rapid advances in scientific understanding and technology will continue. These changes make it inadvisable to define sharp boundaries for what each sector can and cannot do. Indeed such prescriptions would be obsolete and ineffectual before they could be promulgated. Instead, the public, private, and academic sectors must work diligently to improve the processes and mechanisms by which they will deal with the problems and differences that are certain to arise. Recommendations for these improved processes are discussed in Chapter 6.


TerraServer is a test bed for developing advanced database technology. It is operated as a partnership between Microsoft Corporation, the U.S. Geological Survey, the Russian Sovinformsputnik Interbranch Association, and other organizations. See <>.



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