Consensus Report

Each report is produced by a committee of experts selected by the Academy to address a particular statement of task and is subject to a rigorous, independent peer review; while the reports represent views of the committee, they also are endorsed by the Academy. Learn more on our expert consensus reports.

The report examines the roles of the public, private, and academic sectors in providing weather and climate services, the barriers to interaction among the sectors, and the impact of scientific and technological advances on the weather enterprise. The report recommends that the National Weather Service should continue to issue general forecasts and provide unrestricted access to observational data and model results, even though private companies also produce weather forecasts. However, the Weather Service should come up with a new process for deciding whether a particular forecast or weather product should be created by the Weather Service or the private sector.

Key Messages

  • Academia is responsible for advancing the science and educating future generations of meteorologists.
  • Advances in scientific understanding and technology permit new user communities to emerge and change what the sectors are capable of doing and want to do.
  • All members do not share the same expectations and understanding of the proper roles and responsibilities of the three sectors.
  • Each sector contributes in varying degrees to the same activities data collection, modeling and analysis, product development, and information dissemination making it difficult to clearly differentiate their roles.
  • Improving these processes would also help alleviate the misunderstanding and suspicion that exist between some members of the sectors.
  • In the United States, the weather and climate enterprise has evolved since its inception in the 1800s to include three sectors, each of which plays a unique and vital role.
  • It is counterproductive and diversionary to establish detailed and rigid boundaries for each sector outlining who can do what and with which tools. Instead, efforts should focus on improving the processes by which the public and private providers of weather services interact.
  • The National Weather Service (NWS) is responsible for protecting life and property and enhancing the national economy. To carry out its mission, it maintains an infrastructure of observing, communications, data processing, and prediction systems and conducts research on which the public (federal, state, and local government agencies), private, and academic sectors rely. It also negotiates data exchange agreements with other countries.
  • The private sector (weather companies, meteorologists working for private companies or as private consultants, and broadcast meteorologists) is responsible for creating products and services tailored to the needs of their company or clients and for working with the NWS to communicate forecasts and warnings that may affect public safety.
  • The sectors have different philosophies of sharing data and models with the other sectors and the general public.
  • Weather and climate directly affect the U.S. economy and the health and safety of its citizens. Weather-related damages amount to $20 billion per year, and hundreds of millions of dollars are saved each year by taking action based on improved forecasts, warnings, and other weather services.