National Weather Service Discusses Effects of Government Shutdown

National Weather Service Discusses Effects of Government Shutdown

Despite other government agencies getting a temporary furlough, workers at the National Weather Service will still report for duty.
(ST. JOSEPH, Mo.) It should hopefully come as no surprise that before any forecast goes on the air, any meteorologist has to do some preparation.  Some of that means looking at a lot of data online. 

Because of the recent government shutdown, some of the sources of that data are unavailable.

The first website I visited on Tuesday morning got me a message from NOAA, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration:

Most websites associated with NOAA are unavailable; only websites necessary to protect lives will be maintained.

Regardless, employees at the National Weather Service in Pleasant Hill are still on the job.

"Life-saving products for the mission of the protection of life and property, those pages are still active," explained Al Pietrycha, Science and Operations Officer for NWS Pleasant Hill.  "Our own Weather Service pages at all 122 offices are operational.  Those continue to function as normal."

The behind-the-scenes of forecast is quite mundane:

A meteorologist sits at a desk, analyzing and diagnosing different bits of model data.

The data can be shown in map form, graph form, or in a complex arrangement that just looks like some esoteric code system.

Models are like super computers that solve complex equations over and over, and certain websites interpret that information in a way that makes sense to the forecaster.

To the initiated, there's almost an art to it.

"Some models do better for forecasting thunderstorms (like the timing of this weekend's cold front that's coming in), and others are better at winter storms," Pietrycha said.  "So as a meteorologist, with the data that the National Weather Service provides, we have to pick the right model of the day and that makes it challenging."

Despite still having a job, those who work for the National Weather Service have been instructed not to discuss any additional details about the government shutdown, just that they're committed to the mission of protecting life and property.

Other government agencies haven't been as lucky -

National parks and monuments are closed.

Most NASA employees are indefinitely out of a job.

Applying for a federal small business loan is a no-go.

And new applications for Medicare and Social Security benefits will not be processed.

It's uncertain when the shutdown will be over.  But one thing is for certain: as long as it lasts, those who work for the agencies deemed 'non-essential,' it will be far from business as usual.
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