1
Introduction

There can be no doubt that weather isimportant to the U.S. economy and to the health and safety of its citizens. Estimates vary, but 25% (Box 1.1) to 42%1 of the U.S. gross domestic product is affected by weather, and hundreds of millions of dollars are saved each year by taking action based on improved forecasts and weather warnings. Although it is not easy to estimate the number of lives saved or injuries avoided as a result of improved weather information, the number of fatalities from tornadoes and hurricanes in the United States has declined significantly since the 1930s, despite changing demographics, which place a growing number of people and supporting infrastructure in areas vulnerable to extreme weather events.2 Such extreme events are projected to increase over the coming century,3 further magnifying their social and economic costs. Short-term fluctuations in weather can cause or aggravate health ailments ranging from allergies to rheumatism to heat stroke,

1  

Bureau of Economic Analysis figures reported in National Research Council, 1998, The Atmospheric Sciences Entering the Twenty-First Century, National Academy Press, Washington, D.C., p. 25.

2  

S.A. Changnon, R.A. Pielke, Jr., D. Changnon, R.T. Sylves, and R. Pulwarty, 2000, Human factors explain the increased losses from weather and climate extremes, Bulletin of the American Meteorological Society, v. 81, p. 437-442.

3  

Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, 2001, Climate Change 2001: Synthesis Report, R.T. Watson and the Core Writing Team, eds., Geneva, Switzerland, 184 pp.



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1 Introduction There can be no doubt that weather isimportant to the U.S. economy and to the health and safety of its citizens. Estimates vary, but 25% (Box 1.1) to 42%1 of the U.S. gross domestic product is affected by weather, and hundreds of millions of dollars are saved each year by taking action based on improved forecasts and weather warnings. Although it is not easy to estimate the number of lives saved or injuries avoided as a result of improved weather information, the number of fatalities from tornadoes and hurricanes in the United States has declined significantly since the 1930s, despite changing demographics, which place a growing number of people and supporting infrastructure in areas vulnerable to extreme weather events.2 Such extreme events are projected to increase over the coming century,3 further magnifying their social and economic costs. Short-term fluctuations in weather can cause or aggravate health ailments ranging from allergies to rheumatism to heat stroke, 1   Bureau of Economic Analysis figures reported in National Research Council, 1998, The Atmospheric Sciences Entering the Twenty-First Century, National Academy Press, Washington, D.C., p. 25. 2   S.A. Changnon, R.A. Pielke, Jr., D. Changnon, R.T. Sylves, and R. Pulwarty, 2000, Human factors explain the increased losses from weather and climate extremes, Bulletin of the American Meteorological Society, v. 81, p. 437-442. 3   Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, 2001, Climate Change 2001: Synthesis Report, R.T. Watson and the Core Writing Team, eds., Geneva, Switzerland, 184 pp.

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BOX 1.1 Impact of Weather on the U.S. Economy Weather- and climate-sensitive industries account for about 25% of the nation’s gross domestic product (GDP), or about $2.7 trillion. Industries directly affected by weather (e.g., agriculture, construction, energy, transportation, outdoor recreation) account for nearly 10% of GDP. Drought causes an average annual loss of $6 billion to $8 billion. The average annual damage caused by tornadoes, hurricanes, and floods is $11.4 billion. More accurate hurricane watches and warnings are estimated to have saved $2.5 billion in damage costs annually. Reducing the length of coastline under hurricane warnings saves between $600,000 and $1 million per coastal mile annually in costs of evacuations and other preparedness actions. Property losses associated with the 1997-1998 El Niño were $2.6 billion, including nearly $2 billion in crop losses. Altering planting decisions based on improved El Niño forecasts has saved $265 million to $300 million annually. Seventy percent of air traffic delays are attributed to weather, resulting in $4.2 billion lost in economic efficiency. SOURCE: National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, NOAA economic statistics, May 2002, and references therein. Available at <http://205.156.54.206/pub/com/NOAAeconomicstatistics0402.pdf>. and climate change plays an important role in diseases transmitted by insects and ticks, which are sensitive to variations in temperature and humidity.4 Weather and climate change also affect the distribution of native and invasive species. Because of the pervasive influence of weather and climate on society, it is important to have the best weather and climate information the nation can afford. In the United States, the approach is to harness the resources and creativity of the government (primarily the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration [NOAA] for civilian purposes), academia, and the private sector in the weather enterprise. Each of these sectors produces and disseminates weather products (e.g., drought maps, precipitation trends) and services (e.g., aviation forecasts) to carry out its respective mission: broadly speaking, NOAA’s National Weather Service (NWS) is responsible for protecting life and property and enhancing the national economy;5 academia is responsible for advancing the science and educating future 4   World Health Organization Fact Sheet 266, December 2001, <http://www.who.int/inf-fs/fact266.html>. 5   National Weather Service, 1999, Vision 2005: National Weather Service Strategic Plan for Weather, Water and Climate Services, <http://205.156.54.206/sp/strplan.htm>.

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generations of meteorologists; and the private sector (weather companies and private meteorologists working in the media) is responsible for creating products and services needed by specialized customer groups and for working with the NWS to communicate forecasts and warnings that may affect public safety. This arrangement has benefited the nation by providing better and more comprehensive weather and climate services than could be provided by any one alone. On the other hand, although created for different purposes, some of the products and services offered by the different sectors are similar, which creates potential friction and inefficiencies in the weather enterprise. A number of attempts have been made to better differentiate the roles of the sectors, but with limited success (see “History of the NWS-Private Sector Partnership” below). The problem is inherent in the existing system for the following reasons: The activities of the sectors overlap. Each sector relies, to a greater or lesser extent, on shared data collection, modeling and analysis, and information dissemination. The capabilities of the sectors change with advances in technology and declining costs of computing. Many activities that used to require substantial government infrastructure (e.g., some sophisticated modeling) can now be done using desktop computers and the Internet. The usefulness of a product to a particular sector changes. For example, a specialized technology developed by the private sector loses much of its commercial value when it becomes commonplace and is adopted by the other sectors. The products and services offered by the sectors change as new user groups emerge and the needs of existing users evolve. For example, improved scientific understanding and forecasting have permitted new industries to factor in weather and climate projections. Rapidly changing markets and increasingly high expectations of users for speed and convenience decrease the life span of many products and services. All members do not share the same expectations and understanding of the proper roles and responsibilities of the three sectors (Appendix B). Therefore the question is how to take advantage of all that the different sectors have to offer while minimizing conflict and inefficiency. This can be a difficult question to answer because data on the scale of operations and the actual costs of the three sectors are limited, making it difficult to determine how to optimize the efficiency of the system. Moreover, the characteristics of the weather and climate enterprise appear to be unique, making it difficult to apply lessons learned from other disciplines. For example, the science underlying the weather enterprise is mature, giving rise to increas-

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ingly accurate forecasts on which the public can rely on a daily basis. On the other hand, other types of forecasts (e.g., economics, marketing) depend on substantially less well developed science and are therefore relied on less. At the request of the NWS, the National Research Council Committee on Partnerships in Weather and Climate Services was established to undertake the following tasks (see also Appendix A): Examine the present roles of the public, private, and academic sectors in the provision and use of weather, climate, and related environmental information and services in the United States. Identify the effects that advances in observing, modeling, forecasting, and information dissemination technologies may have on the respective roles of the public, private, and academic sectors. Examine the interfaces between the various sectors, identify barriers to effective interaction, and recommend changes in policies or practices that could improve the potential for providing weather and climate information. Make recommendations regarding how most effectively to coordinate the roles among the various sectors. An analysis of these issues for the environmental sciences in general appears in the National Research Council report, Resolving Conflicts Arising from the Privatization of Environmental Data.6 This report begins with the results of that analysis and examines the issues as they pertain to public, private, and academic partnerships for creating civilian weather and climate services. The stresses affecting the sectors providing weather services and the sectors providing climate services are similar, but weather issues are the most contentious and receive the most attention. Friction among the climate sectors is not yet a serious problem, although it could become important when improved understanding of the atmosphere draws private companies into making longer-term forecasts for events such as El Niños.7 However, the improvements that the committee recommends for the weather enterprise should also be applicable to climate issues. Because the NWS is the primary public weather agency in the United States and constitutes the largest party in the public-private-academic part- 6   National Research Council, 2001, Resolving Conflicts Arising from the Privatization of Environmental Data, National Academy Press, Washington, D.C., 99 pp. 7   The most recent attempt to curtail NOAA’s climate activities was in 1995 when the House of Representatives proposed dismantling the Department of Commerce. The bill, which did not pass, would have abolished the regional climate centers and privatized the NOAA research laboratories and data centers. H.R. 1756, Department of Commerce Dismantling Act, 104th Congress, 1st session.

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nership, the committee paid attention both to the NWS parent organization, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, in general, and to the NWS in particular. The activities of other government agencies that purchase or produce weather services (e.g., Federal Aviation Administration, Department of Defense, Department of Agriculture, National Institutes of Health, state government agencies) are discussed only to the extent that they affect NWS partnerships. HISTORY OF THE NWS-PRIVATE SECTOR PARTNERSHIP The NWS has its roots in the Smithsonian Institution, which supplied weather instruments to telegraph stations and created an extensive observation network in 1849 (Table 1.1).8 Weather services were supplied by the Telegraph Service and the U.S. Army Signal Corps until 1890, when Congress created a Weather Bureau in the Department of Agriculture.9 For more than 50 years, the Weather Bureau operated as the primary organization for conducting weather research, making observations, issuing weather warnings, and providing forecasts and other weather information to the public. However, the return of Air Force and Navy meteorologists from World War II battlefields led to a rapid expansion of commercial weather services.10 To clarify the relationship between the Weather Bureau and private meteorologists, the American Meteorological Society (AMS) convened a conference in 1948.11 The resulting “six-point program” developed by the chief of the Weather Bureau, representatives of industrial weather consulting services, and the AMS (Appendix B) was never adopted as formal policy by the Weather Bureau. Instead, the Weather Bureau issued a circular letter to all of its offices providing guidelines for cooperating with the private sector.12 The letter specified that Weather Bureau employees should not provide “individualized services” such as those provided by the private sector. Requests for such services were to be referred to the AMS, which would pass them on to private consultants. 8   The framework for much of this section is given in Appendix B. A time line showing the evolution of the NWS can be found at <http://www.erh.noaa.gov/er/gyx/timeline.html>. 9   NWS Organic Act, October 1, 1890, Session I, ch. 1266, 26 Stat. 653-55. 10   Prior to World War II, the only significant private sector meteorologists were with the major airlines. See Advisory Committee on Weather Services, 1953, Weather Is the Nation’s Business, Department of Commerce, U.S. Government Printing Office, Washington, D.C., 59 pp. 11   American Meteorological Society, 1949, Report of the executive secretary, 1948, Bulletin of the American Meteorological Society, v. 30, p. 140-141. 12   Weather Bureau, 1948, Policy with respect to private practice of meteorology and instructions regarding cooperation with private meteorologists, Circular Letter 22-48, March 9.

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The broad changes in the weather enterprise led the Department of Commerce, which had operated the Weather Bureau since 1940, to convene an advisory committee in 1953 to review civilian weather issues, including those arising from the emergence of a private practice in meteorology.13 That advisory committee found several instances in which field offices provided services to individuals in direct competition with private meteorologists, in part because the circular letter did not “clearly establish the relationship between the Weather Bureau and private meteorologists.” Noting that the development of the commercial sector should lead to greater efficiency of the Weather Bureau, the advisory committee recommended that the Weather Bureau actively encourage the development of private meteorology; that private meteorologists create radio and television weather programs without censorship of any kind; that the circular letter be canceled in favor of a new directive based on the six points agreed to at the 1948 AMS meeting; and that a special committee be created in the Department of Commerce to review complaints and determine which services should be discontinued by the Weather Bureau.14 Most, but not all, of these recommendations were eventually implemented (no special committee was formed to manage complaints), spurring a substantial expansion of the commercial weather industry.15 In the decades that followed, debate over the roles of the Weather Bureau (from which the National Weather Service emerged in 1970) and the private sector continued. In 1978 the NWS updated its policy on industrial meteorology, specifying that NWS products were to be provided to the private sector on a nondiscriminatory basis and that specialized services should be provided by the private sector.16 Beginning in the early 1980s, Congress began a sustained effort to privatize government functions. The transfer of civilian meteorological satellites to the private sector was considered and rejected,17 but the privatization of products and services gained 13   Advisory Committee on Weather Services, 1953, Weather Is the Nation’s Business, Department of Commerce, U.S. Government Printing Office, Washington, D.C., 59 pp. 14   Advisory Committee on Weather Services, 1953, Weather Is the Nation’s Business, Department of Commerce, U.S. Government Printing Office, Washington, D.C., p. 46. 15   C.C. Bates, 1976, Industrial meteorology and the American Meteorological Society—A historical overview, Bulletin of the American Meteorological Society, v. 57, p. 1320-1327. 16   National Weather Service, 1978, Policy on industrial meteorology, National Weather Service Operations Manual 78-24, Part A, Chapter 55, pp. 1-3. 17   H.R. 6798, Atmospheric, Climatic, and Ocean Pollution Act of 1982, 97th Congress, directed the NWS administrator to submit a report on the appropriateness of privatizing meteorological satellites. The Land Remote Sensing Commercialization Act of 1984 (Public

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steam. House and Senate reports regularly admonished the NWS to privatize services and to avoid competing with the private sector, and in 1991 the NWS responded by updating its 1978 policy on industrial meteorology.18 The 1991 policy acknowledges the desirability of a public-private partnership and defines the roles of the NWS and commercial weather companies with the goal of avoiding unnecessary competition with the private sector. Subsequently, Congress directed the privatization of several specialized services, including agriculture and non-federal, non-wildfire fire weather services (1995), and the NWS further curtailed its activities by issuing guidelines prohibiting event-specific forecasts (1996).19 At about the same time, the Office of Management and Budget issued a circular mandating full and open access to government data (i.e., information is made available without restriction for no more than the cost of preparing and disseminating the information).20 This policy was in line with a long-standing NWS practice of providing affordable data to all (Table 1.1).21 However, the formal data policy and restrictions on NWS activities did not settle the debate about roles and responsibilities of the public and private sectors, and in the late 1990s the Commercial Weather Services Association spearheaded a lobbying effort to change the NWS Organic Act and prevent competition with the private sector.22 These efforts have not succeeded, and the debate continues today.23     Law 98-365) prohibits the “leasing, selling, or transferring to the private sector, commercial-izing, or dismantling any portion of the weather satellite systems.” 18   The National Weather Service and the Private Weather Industry: A Public-Private Partnership, 56 Federal Register 1984, January 18, 1991. 19   Reports 104-196 and 104-139 to accompany H.R. 2076, Departments of Commerce, Justice, and State, the Judiciary, and related agencies appropriations bill, fiscal year 1996, 104th Congress, 1st session; Memorandum from the Assistant Administrator for Weather Services to NWS directors, June 7, 1996. The contents of the memorandum were codified in Guidelines for support of special events, NWS Operations Manual Letter 04-00, July 17, 2000. 20   OMB Circular A-130, Management of Federal Information Resources, 1994; codified in the Paperwork Reduction Act of 1995. See 44 U.S.C. § 35 and 61 Federal Register 6428, February 20, 1996. 21   The first NWS policy concerning data dissemination was issued in 1978 (Policy on industrial meteorology, National Weather Service Operations Manual, Part A, Chapter 5, December 20, 1978). Under the 1990 Budget Reconciliation Act (56 Federal Register 33259), NOAA charged fair market value to commercial users for certain data, information, and products in FY 1991 and FY 1992. 22   For example, see the testimony before the House of Representatives Subcommittee on Energy and Environment by Michael S. Leavitt on behalf of the Commercial Weather Services Association on April 9, 1997, 105th Congress, 1st session, and by Joel Myers on behalf of AccuWeather, Inc., on March 25, 1998, 105th Congress, 2nd session. 23   Further commentary on this debate can be found in Appendix B, and specific examples of contentious issues are given in Appendix D. These issues are discussed further in Chapter 3.

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TABLE 1.1 Milestones in Meteorology Year Event 1814 Surgeon General of the Army orders his staff to begin recording the daily weather during the War of 1812a 1845 Telegraph system envisioned as a great tool for weather forecasting by Joseph Henry, secretary of the Smithsonian Institutiona 1870 Congress directs the Secretary of War to provide observations from the interior of the United States and the Great Lakesa 1870s Army Signal Corps provides daily weather maps and forecasts in the United Statesb 1873 Establishment of the International Meteorological Organization and international agreement on full and open exchange of meteorological data 1890 National weather function is transferred from Signal Corps to U.S. Weather Bureaua — Operational surface network is established in the United States; data are communicated by teletype 1905 First marine weather report broadcast at seaa 1920s Operational radiosonde network is established 1922 Lewis Fry Richardson’s book Weather Prediction by Numerical Process is published 1926 First full-time broadcast meteorologist is hired by a radio station, WEEI, Bostonc 1934 First private sector meteorologist is hired by a utility companyd 1935 First private (value-added nongovernmental) forecast is made by a meteorologist for a client 1936 Private meteorological instrument company is formed—Vaisala in Finland 1939 Carl-Gustav Rossby demonstrates the usefulness of linearized perturbation equations for numerical weather predictione 1940s Operational radiosonde networks are established around the worldb 1943 First aircraft flight into a hurricane to collect observationsa 1944 National radiosonde network enables the prediction of a hurricane directly into a surface high-pressure systema 1944 Eye and spiral bands of a tropical cyclone are observed by radar on a U.S. Navy shipa 1944 Weather forecasts for next few days convince General Eisenhower to delay D-day from June 5 to June 6f 1946 First group of private weather service companies begins operationsd 1948 First weather forecast is presented on television 1948 First successful forecast of a tornadog 1950 First experimental 24-hour forecast of 500-millibar heights over North America on the ENIAC computerh 1950s Operational radar networks are establishedb 1954 Weather radar is first used on a television weathercastc 1955 First operational numerical weather predictioni 1960 First private meteorological consulting, research, and development company (TRC) is formed 1960 Launch of the first operational weather satellite, TIROS-Ij 1963 E. Lorenz publishes the first paper on limits of atmospheric predictabilityk 1963 First live satellite images are displayed on television 1968 Private environmental research companies (e.g., ERT) form to meet concerns about air quality

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1969 Nimbus 3 is launched carrying two infrared sounders; first atmospheric soundings based on satellite remote sensing are obtained 1975 First geostationary satellite (GOES-1) is launched, making possible animations of cloud photographs 1981 First commercial Doppler radar is installed at a TV stationc 1983 First computerized color graphics of weather maps are presented on television — First live radar images are displayed on television 1983-89 Lightning detection network is established in the United States 1986 First climate forecast of sea-surface temperature in the tropical Pacificj 1989 NWS modernization program begins 1995 WMO Resolution 40 governing the use of weather and climate data is passedl — First ensemble forecasts are produced 1995 Radio occultation sounding of the Earth’s atmosphere is demonstrated in GPS/MET experimentm 1997 TRMM satellite is launched; first weather radar in space 2000 NWS modernization program concludes NOTE: GPS/MET = Meteorological applications of the Global Positioning System; WMO = World Meteorological Organization. aR.H. Simpson, ed., 2002, Coping with Hurricanes: A Historical Analysis of 20th Century Progress, American Geophysical Union Monograph, Washington, D.C., in press. bNational Research Council, 1998, The Atmospheric Sciences Entering the Twenty-First Century, National Academy Press, Washington, D.C., 384 pp. cR. Leep, 1996, The AMS and the development of broadcast meteorology, in Historical Essays in Meteorology, 1919-1995, J.R. Fleming, ed., American Meteorological Society, Boston, p. 481-507. dD.B. Spiegler, 1996, A history of private sector meteorology, in Historical Essays in Meteorology, 1919-1995, J.R. Fleming, ed., American Meteorological Society, Boston, pp. 417-441. eE. Kalnay, S.J. Lord, and R. McPherson, 1998, Maturity of operational numerical weather products: Medium range, Bulletin of the American Meteorological Society, v. 79, p. 2753-2769. fJ.M. Stagg, 1972, Forecast for Overlord, June 6, 1944, W.W. Norton, New York, 128 pp. g<http://www.nssl.noaa.gov/GoldenAnniversary/>. hJ.J. Tribbia and R.A. Anthes, 1987, Scientific basis of modern weather prediction, Science, v. 237, p. 493-499. iNational Research Council, 2000, From Research to Operations in Weather Satellites and Numerical Weather Prediction: Crossing the Valley of Death, National Academy Press, Washington, D.C., 80 pp. jNational Research Council, 2000, Issues in the Integration of Research and Operational Satellite Systems for Climate Research: Part I. Science and Design, National Academy Press, Washington, D.C., 152 pp. kE. Lorenz, 1963, Deterministic nonperiodic flow, Journal of Atmospheric Science, v. 20, p. 130-141. lWMO, 1996, Exchanging Meteorological Data: Guidelines on Relationships in Commercial Meteorological Activities. WMO Policy and Practice, WMO No. 837, Geneva, Switzerland, 24 pp. mR. Ware, M. Exner, D. Feng, M. Gorbunov, K. Hardy, B. Herman, Y. Kuo, T. Meehan, W. Melbourne, C. Rocken, W. Schreiner, S. Sokolovskiy, F. Solheim, X. Zou, R. Anthes, S. Businger, and K. Trenberth, 1996, GPS sounding of the atmosphere from low Earth orbit: Preliminary results, Bulletin of the American Meteorological Society, v. 77, p. 19-40.

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INTERNATIONAL DIMENSIONS Weather and climate are inherently global phenomena, and their analysis requires measurements from observing systems located in other countries. The United States has obtained weather data from other countries through international agreements reached through the World Meteorological Organization (WMO) and its predecessors since the late 1800s. WMO is an intergovernmental agency of the United Nations, and its 185 members are all representatives of the national meteorological and hydrological services in their country.24 The United States is a major contributor to WMO, providing about 25% of the WMO budget, and is also the major participant and contributor to international observing systems and research programs. The NWS is the U.S. member of WMO and represents the public, private, and academic sectors. For several years the U.S. delegation to the WMO executive committee meetings has included private sector advisers in addition to public and academic sector advisers at the invitation of the NWS. These advisers participate in the discussions but do not vote, and their presence signals the importance of all three sectors to the weather enterprise. No other WMO member has included private sector representation on its delegations. As members of WMO, countries agree to work together to set standards and exchange data and products. Such agreements can be difficult to craft because each government has its own approach to the provision of weather services. In the past, most data were freely shared, but increasing costs, declining budgets, and different philosophies about the role of federally funded meteorological services have led some countries to fully or partly privatize weather services. For example, New Zealand created a government-owned corporation (New Zealand MetService) to “grow as a commercially successful business delivering worldwide weather and information presentation services.”25 Many European meteorological offices are now organized with commercial arms that compete with the private sector for commercial contracts. The United States is one of a few countries that continues to provide full and open access to data and that has a thriving commercial weather industry. For example, there are fewer than 30 private weather companies in Europe and more than 400 private weather companies in the United States.26 24   <http://www.wmo.ch/index-en.html>. 25   2000-2001 Annual Report, p. 2, <www.metservice.co.nz>. 26   P. Weiss, 2002, Borders in Cyberspace, 19 pp., <ftp://ftp.cordis.lu/pub/econtent/docs/peter_weiss.pdf>.

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ORGANIZATION OF THE REPORT In this report the committee examines the roles of the public (primarily the NWS), academic, and private sectors in providing weather and climate services and identifies barriers and opportunities for improving interactions among the sectors. The complete committee charge is given in Appendix A. Chapter 2 reviews the roles and motivations of the three sectors and the needs of the users they serve. Additional detail on the roles of the sectors in modeling and observing systems is given in Appendix C. Chapter 3 describes interactions among the sectors, including successful partnerships as well as conflicts and misunderstandings. Some of the examples used in the chapter were provided by private sector companies, and their letters and the NOAA responses are given in Appendix D. Chapter 4 provides the legal, social, policy, and economic framework for the weather and climate enterprise. A white paper commissioned by the committee outlines the social issues in greater detail and is given in Appendix E. Chapter 5 discusses the impact of scientific and technological advances (data collection, modeling, forecasting, and dissemination) on partnerships. Chapter 6 recommends ways to improve the effectiveness of the U.S. weather enterprise. A different view of many of these topics is given in Appendix B, a commissioned paper that provides an overview of the NWS-private sector partnership. Finally, biographical sketches of committee members and a list of acronyms and abbreviations are given in Appendixes F and G, respectively.

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