1. The government acquires and analyzes observations and issues forecasts and warnings.
2. The government, newspapers, radio, and television all participate in dissemination of weather forecasts and severe weather warnings.
3. Private-sector meteorological firms use government data and products to provide weather information for the media and special weather services for a variety of industries and activities.
4. Government, university, and private-sector scientists develop improved understanding of atmospheric behavior and help to turn this advancing understanding into new capabilities and technology for observing and predicting atmospheric events. This four-way partnership has served the nation well; it could be nurtured to generate even greater benefit.
Although we can do little to change the atmosphere or the weather, we can do much to anticipate atmospheric events such as severe weather and thus provide opportunities for protecting lives and property. These capabilities are expanding rapidly, for both traditional weather impacts and new ones, including applications to environmental quality, to solar events that affect satellites in Earth orbit, communications, to power transmission and changes in weather patterns associated with El Niño events. Today, the nation is reaping significant benefits from its investments in atmospheric observations and prediction capabilities.
The benefits of weather forecasts and warnings as measured by lives saved, injuries avoided, or property that has not been damaged cannot be estimated easily. Determining the economic benefits of long-term forecasts, such as those associated with El Niño, is even more difficult. Nevertheless, casualties produced by unusual weather events are substantial, both in an absolute sense and relative to other natural disasters.
Long-term fatality statistics for tornadoes and hurricanes are shown in Tables I.2.1 and I.2.2, using data that go back to the 1930s and 1900s. The data show remarkable progress. More detailed information on weather-related fatalities and damage in the United States for 1991-1995 is given in Table I.2.3. The number of fatalities attributable to weather is typically 300-400 per year. However, one large event, such as the extreme temperatures of 1995, can add as many as 1,000 fatalities to that total. Similarly, Hurricane Andrew (1992) and the floods in 1993 each caused more damage than is attributable to all weather events in some other years. Changnon et al. (1997) present an analysis of the effects of recent weather events on the U.S. insurance industry.
Table I.2.4 provides worldwide statistics on deaths owing to civil strife, natural disasters, and other environmental causes. It shows that more than 25 percent of deaths are due to drought, famine, and severe weather and that these