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U.S. lags other nations in global weather prediction

By Ed O'Keefe

About 629 weather-related deaths occurred each year between 1999 and 2008, according to a new report. And 96 weather disasters between 1980 and 2009 caused at least $1 billion in damages, according to The Post's Steve Tracton:

Output from the European Centre for Medium-Range Weather Forecasts (ECMWF) weather model. (College of DuPage)
No doubt, they would've been much higher if it weren't for accurate and timely weather forecasts. The NRC report, "When Weather Matters: Science and Service to Meet Critical Societal Needs," puts the average annual value of public weather forecasts and warnings in the United States at about $31.5 billion. Compare that to the the $5.1 billion cost of providing the forecasts and warnings (probably the most bang for the buck of any government investment!). And while (to the best of my knowledge) there are no reliable official statistics on the lives saved by weather forecasts, it's obvious that numerous souls owe their lives to tornado and hurricane warnings alone.
Despite the numerous lives and billions of dollars saved by weather forecasts every year -- not to mention the significant progress in observing, understanding and predicting weather during the past 15 years -- the report concludes that the "United States has failed to match or surpass progress in operational numerical weather prediction achieved by other nations and failed to realize its prediction potential; as a result, the nation is not mitigating weather impacts to the extent possible." ("numerical weather prediction", or NWP, is a reference to the computer models that meteorologists use as guidance when making forecasts).

Continue reading at the Capital Weather Gang >>>

By Ed O'Keefe  | October 7, 2010; 2:00 PM ET
Categories:  Agencies and Departments  
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