Prediction Center, as well as the guidance products produced by the National Centers (Findings 3-3a, 4-2b, and 4-3a). Global model forecasts (e.g., the Global Forecast System) improved, but their skill still lags behind some of the other leading global models (Finding 4-4).

More reliable detection and prediction of severe weather and flooding. This was achieved, as summarized in Findings 3-3a and 4-2b.

More cost effective NWS. As noted above, the challenges involved in assessing the value of decreased loss of life and property as a result of improved forecasts and warnings make it difficult to quantitatively assess whether a more cost effective NWS was achieved. However, estimates of the value of weather information seem to support the notion that the post-MAR NWS is indeed cost effective. The MAR significantly increased the quantity and quality of NWS products while decreasing the total number of staff.

Higher productivity for NWS employees. This promised benefit is also difficult to assess quantitatively. With a greater number of higher quality products produced by a smaller workforce with more technical capabilities, and with a greater amount of higher quality data and information available to them, productivity of NWS employees has certainly increased (Finding 4-3a).

The initial National Implementation Plan (NWS, 1990) expanded and clarified the list of promised benefits:

Operational realization of a predictive warning program focusing on mesoscale meteorology and hydrology. This was achieved, as summarized in Findings 3-3a and 4-2.

Advancement of the science of meteorology and hydrology. This was achieved although there were some issues with the application of science and technology to operational hydrology (Findings 3-4 and 4-7a). While numerical weather prediction improved steadily, there are still some cases where capabilities could be improved (Finding 4-4).

Development of NWS human resources to achieve maximum benefit from recent scientific and technical advances. The scientific and technical capabilities of the workforce increased as a result of the MAR (Findings 4-3a and 4-3c), but whether maximum benefit was achieved cannot be determined.

User acceptance and support of NWS modernization and associated restructuring service improvement objectives. There was some initial resistance from employees (Finding 3-3b), as well as the general public and Congress in some regions, but this goal was eventually achieved.

Strengthening cooperation with the mass media, universities, the research community and the private hydrometeorological sector to collectively fulfill the Nation’s weather information needs from provision of severe weather warnings and general forecasts for the public as a whole, which is a Government responsibility; to provision of detailed and customer specific weather information, which is a private sector responsibility. This was achieved, although improvement in the relationship between the NWS and the private sector took longer. Collaborations with academia and government laboratories are beneficial, with some exceptions where the colocation is not optimal (Findings 3-5, 4-3c, and 4-5).

Achievement of productivity gains through automation and replacement of obsolete technological systems. Observations were automated and obsolete technological systems were replaced (Findings 3-2 and 4-2a), leading to more products and new capabilities.

Operation of the optimum NWS warning and forecast system consistent with service requirements, user acceptability, and affordability. It is not possible to assess whether the post-MAR NWS operates optimally. Operations certainly improved dramatically, and this goal, with some exceptions (e.g., the tornado and flash flood warning False Alarm Ratios remains high), was largely met.

Key Finding 1

The National Weather Service (NWS) had been unable to keep up with the pace of technological advances and had nearly become obsolete by the 1980s. Therefore the NWS was not utilizing the full potential available to provide the best possible meteorological services to the nation. The $4.5 billion national investment in the Modernization and Associated Restructuring (MAR) was both needed and generally well spent. Overall, the MAR was successful in achieving major improvements for the weather enterprise.



The National Academies | 500 Fifth St. N.W. | Washington, D.C. 20001
Copyright © National Academy of Sciences. All rights reserved.
Terms of Use and Privacy Statement